Thursday, August 11, 2016

Despite economic downturn, you mustn’t lay off workers – FG tells banks, companies

The Federal Government, yesterday, insisted that banks and other financial institutions as well as multinationals must keep existing jobs and desist from sacking their workers, regardless of the current economic downturn. It held that banks and their employees must be ready to operate within the provisions of the Nigerian laws.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, stated this at a parley with the National President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFE, and the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE, in Abuja.

He stated that as a way of preventing further crisis, “We took a major step towards the resolution of the lingering retrenchment and other major labour issues in the banking and financial institutions with a crucial meeting with the sector’s organised labour unions, ASBIFFE and NUBUIFE.”

Noting that the economy is technically in recession, the minister asserted that, “It is therefore imperative for us as government to use various mechanisms to keep the existing jobs as we have done in the oil sector where cuts in perks and allowances especially at the upper level were deployed. We expect same in your sector.

“It was the first of the three-stage meetings with the sector’s stakeholders. Today, our journey towards the resolution of the industrial disputes in the banking and financial sector begins in earnest. You may recall the series of petitions from the organized unions in banks and financial institutions, and individuals complaining of unfair labour practices which include illegal termination of appointments, forced resignations, unpaid exit emoluments and entitlements, non-remittance of union check-off dues, prolonged casualisation, contract staffing and redundancy.”

Ngige recalled the disputes in the sector which compelled him to intervene and declare status quo ante-bellum on May 30, 2016, directing banks to reverse all termination of the previous four months while the unions were restrained from picketing the banks, pending the outcome of negotiations.

He stated that the misinterpretation of this directive led to an invitation by the Senate Committee on Banking and Financial Institutions, which agreed that the ministerial directives were proper, and legally guided after his appearance with the banks and the unions and commended his approach to the matter.

The minister, who promised that his intervention was to resolve the disputes in the overall interest of all Nigerians, expressed displeasure with the skewed observance of the laws of the land by the financial institutions and warned that the provisions of the Financial Institutions Act, BOFIA, cannot be the only law banks will comply with, to the exclusion of the laws of the country.

“Banks are not only to obey the Banks and Financial Institutions Act; they must also obey the all encompassing laws of Nigeria, especially the labour laws because the banks cannot function without human beings. So, both the banks, that’s the owners and the unions, the umbrella for the workers must conform to the laws of the land that guide employer/employee relationship,” he said.

Ngige further disclosed that the federal government was conscious of the nation’s steep economic indices, hence, the emphasis on saving the jobs where government was constrained to create new ones.

He explained that government was not on a witch-hunt but was also prepared to ensure that all parties to the dispute obey the laws of the land, insisting that where retrenchment was inevitable at the end of negotiations, then, due process of the law must be followed.

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