Nigeria: Organised labour threaten to cripple banking sector

Dr. Chris Ngige, Nigeria's minister of Labour

*Dr. Chris Ngige, Nigeria’s minister of Labour.

10 June 2016, Lagos — Ahead of the expiration of the 21-day ultimatum issued to some banks which recently sacked some of their workers to recall them, the organised labour yesterday vowed to cripple their operations over ongoing mass retrenchment of workers.

The labour unions threw their weight behind the threat by the federal government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, to withdraw their (banks) licences that breached its directive to halt further retrenchment.

At a joint briefing in Geneva, leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, insisted that they would picket banks that indulge in further mass sack of their employees, saying that the federal government was right to have threatened erring banks with withdrawal of their licenses if they refused to halt the gale of mass retrenchment of workers.

Speaking at a briefing at the venue of the ongoing 105th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland, both labour unions contended that just like the banks disobeyed the laws of the country and retrenched workers “we will picket them to show them that they do not have a monopoly of the law of disobedience.”

Both Ayuba Wabba and the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, who frowned at the refusal of the banks to allow their workers to unionise, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said the pronouncement of Ngige was expected, arguing that it was not the responsibility of the Senate Committee on Banking to invite the minister and others for a meeting since the issue fell within industrial relations

Ngige had earlier directed banks and financial institutions, to suspend further retrenchment of the workers following reports that some of them have embarked on that.

But speaking in Geneva while addressing journalists on the sideline of the on-going 105th session of the ILC.

“The federal government gave the licences to the banks to operate and if its directives are not adhered to the licences will be withdrawn if the need arises,” he said.

‘We know what to do. After all the banks have the licences given by the government. We know what to do. They need to comply.

‘Financial institutions need to negotiate. We want them to maintain the status quo. As far as I am the minister of labour I will protect the interest of workers” the minister said.

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He said the unions were also cautioned when necessary and that he had directed the union not to picket the banks because of the retrenchment issue.

He said any bank worker removed from work had about 10 members of family, to cater for and the government would not want more people in the unemployment market.

He said that employers, government and the union must negotiate before any retrenchment.

” If you are going to lay off there is a way to declare redundancy, there is a process. Section 20 of the labour Act says it. You must call the unions and discuss with them. You don’t just treat them as slaves in their own country,” Ngige said.

He also cautioned the managements of telecommunication companies, said to be compiling lists of staff they will retrench without discussing with anybody, against such action.

*Thisday

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