Mass sack: FG threatens to withdraw licences of recalcitrant banks, telecom firms
The Federal Government, yesterday, expressed shock that employers in the financial sector, especially banks, were breaching its directives to stop further retrenchment, threatening to withdraw the operating licence of any bank or telecommunication company in breach. Speaking to Nigerian journalists at the ongoing 105th session of the International Labour Congress, ILC, in Geneva, Switzerland, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, warned that government would sanction erring companies because government had a duty to protect jobs in a harsh economy.
Ngige was responding to questions on alleged breach of his earlier directive to banks and other financial institutions to stop further retrenchment of workers, pending the stakeholders’ meeting scheduled for next month. The minister, who spoke after his speech to the ILO National Assembly, said: “We will go a step further if they continue. 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. They need to come to the negotiation table. We did (halted the spate of sack to hold a stakeholders meeting) in the oil industry and we succeeded. Even 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 and you want us to keep quiet. “We want them to maintain the statusquo.
As far as I am the minister of labour, I will protect the interest of workers; same to the telecommunication companies, they are also talking about compiling lists without discussing with anybody.” On the position of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, that the companies in the private sector had the right to hire and fire and that power did not reside in the government, Senator Ngige said organised private sector, represented by NECA, was protecting its own members, and merely expressing its opinion. He, however, warned that this could not be done tot the detriment of the workers and the law of the land.
“The organised private sector, NECA is protecting its own interest. NECA is a leg of the tripod, nothing stops it from having its own opinion. It is the section that protects private investors. It is employers’ body and the people I am talking to are also employers. ‘’The bank’s boards, the banks chairmen, the bank’s managing directors, are the people I am talking to. I also talk to unions whenever need be. In the same order, I also asked the unions not to picket the banks. They had mobilised to picket the banks. It is the job of the government to maintain a peaceful milieu on both sides and that is why I issued the directive.
“From investigation and preliminary report available to us, the banks, the insurance companies, other financial institutions are all laying off. And in some cases, they do not allow their workers to unionize and that is wrong and against the ILO principle,” he said. According to the Minister, they have not entered into collective bargaining agreement, CBA, a first step to laying off workers. Earlier in his address to the assembly, the minister said: “Nigeria is not insulated from these challenges which are daily manifesting in the socio-economic crises of today.
‘’The current challenges in the country are connected with the historical neglect of past administrations to address the consequences of a mono-product economy that had so far depended on revenue from crude oil. “The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, of Nigeria however declined to comment on the development. According to the CBN Director of Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, “The CBN will not want to comment on the issue.”
Reporting By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Geneva, Switzerland