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Union, agency dispute over planned sacking of bank workers

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Organised labour has vowed to shut down First Bank of Nigeria over plans to sack over 1,000 of its workers without following due process.

President of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), Anthony Abakpa, who told The Guardian, Wednesday, that letters were already written and likely to be rolled to the workers yesterday, said the union will ensure it didn’t happen.

He said the union, which is already at alert, has written to all labour centres, including the Ministry the Labour and Employment, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI).

He said if the lender goes ahead to sack the workers, they will also move swiftly into action by shutting the bank indefinitely.

“How will a bank just go ahead and sack workers without due process and without following the labour laws? If they do anything without following the labour laws, it is an infringement on the rights of the workers and we are going to act swiftly,” Abakpa assured.

However, The Guardian gathered that the affected workers are not core First Bank workers, but contract staff deployed by another firm, which insisted it followed due process in the exercise. While the lender refused to comment officially on the issue, as those affected are not its staff, it, however, said: “the disengagement was about injecting fresh ideas into the system, and also redeploying the workers into different organisations.”

In a swift reaction, the Managing Director of the contracting firm, Whyte Cleon Limited, a human resource outsourcing company, said it did not contravene the labour laws in disengaging the workers, as they met all indices and requirements.

Managing Director, Whyte Cleon, Nireti Adebayo, in an interview with The Guardian on the telephone, denied all of NUBIFIE’s accusations.

She insisted that the firm did not receive any letter from the Ministry of Labour and Employment in regards to the matter, saying: “That is not true. I am just hearing it for the first time, and I am not aware of any meeting from the labour ministry and unions. No letter was written to us.”

Probed further to know if workers have been issued the retrenchment letters, and what terms, Adebayo, who refused to talk further, said she will reach out to The Guardian through an email, which was not sent as at the time of filing this report.

The Guardian efforts to reach Whyte Cleon’s spokesman, Yakubu Wuyep, were also futile, as he did not pick his calls.

Meanwhile, NUBIFIE, which is holding First Bank responsible for the terminations, said it would force the bank to respect labour laws, adding that it needs to adhere to laid down guidelines and negotiate good severance packages before sacking the workers.

“We believe in dialogue and collective agreement. Anything that is alien will be unacceptable because we will not support plans that will not be in the interest of workers,” he said.

He said further said: “We have also communicated with our sister union in the bank, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), so that all of us will be on the same page.


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