September 14, 2009

Troubled banks begin audit of staff

A major crisis that may exacerbate the fragile state of the nation’s banking sector is looming. This stems from the ongoing staff audit in the five troubled banks, which may see thousands of bank workers lose their jobs.

Investigations by the Nigerian Tribune revealed that the mass purge would not be limited to the crisis-ridden banks but even some banks certified satisfactory by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and those whose audit probe reports were still being awaited.

Meanwhile, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) and National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), the umbrella bodies of junior and senior staff of banks, and Trade Union Congress (TUC), which are yet to recover from the recent sack in FirstBank and Wema Bank are threatening to cripple the operations of the banks while the banks are insisting on going on with their plans.

A competent source at one of the troubled banks told the Nigerian Tribune in Lagos that the staff audit was in line with the mandate of the CBN to the new managements of the banks, stating that the apex regulatory body clearly instructed the banks to restructure their operations and cut costs accordingly.

In his reaction, CBN’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said the CBN governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s major concern now was to ensure the banking industry remained safe and sound.

Only recently, FirstBank was reported to have sent packing hundreds of its staff but the bank’s Head, Media Marketing and Corporate Communications, Mr. Steve Omanufeme, said there were no plans for a “mass sacking” by the bank, adding that on the contrary, as part of the bank’s staff replenishment strategy, the bank had employed a total of 506 fresh graduates in the last three months.

He noted, however, that “In our multi-generational existence, FirstBank will naturally have a number of staff that qualify for retirement each year. Their scheduled exit from the institution has, sometimes and regrettably, been misconstrued by some labour unions as “sacking,” thus fuelling misinformation in the press. In the financial year just ended, the number of staff due for retirement, by virtue of age and length of service, is less than 100 which is a far cry from the 450 reported in some newspapers.”

Wema Bank disengaged 151 of its workers, in what was described as the first phase of the work force trimming exercise. A statement signed by the bank’s Head of Corporate Communications, Mr. Tunde Olofintila, said the decision to send packing some of its workers was to enable it to create a bank that could compete in the current banking landscape, adding the development was in consonance with the three-phase transformation plan of repositioning, stabilising and growing the bank to enable the 64-year old financial institution to regain its prime position as a leading bank in Nigeria.

He added that as part of the bank’s adjustments to survive these times, such internal services currently provided in the bank by workers like secretaries, drivers, security guards, office assistants and cleaners would henceforth be out-sourced.

According to Olofintila who said “the new management has implemented a new Service Delivery Model (SDM) with some redeployment effected to support the new SDM. The bank is already implementing some new initiatives which will dovetail into 500 former staff of Wema Bank Ventures of various cadres and over 200 former youth corps members being offered jobs in Wema Bank while another set of over 240 Wema Bank Ventures Staff would be converted into tellers to support the bank’s branch operations.”

In his reaction, NUBIFIE’s National President, Mr. Hassan Adeleke, said the union could not be a party to any sack of its members under any guise, stressing that the workers should not be made scapegoats of the current developments in the sector.

According to him, “as a trade union organisation, we wish to caution the new interim managements of the affected banks not to transfer, in any form or anyway, the effects of the reckless loan saga and other management failures to affect the continuity/security of jobs of employees who, often, are themselves victims of such unwholesome actions of management.”

Also, Acting National President and Secretary-General of the union of ASSBIFI, Mr. Olusoji Salako and Jarvis Erhomosele, stated that the respective managements of such banks must follow due process, as stated in Article 5(b) Part II (Section I) of the Collective Agreement relating to redundancy and S.20 of the Labour Act, adding that it was an irresponsible union that would fold its arms in the present circumstances.

They opined that they would ensure banks that dispensed with the services of their employees without due process were shut down.

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