As staff of the United Bank for Africa started the new year with lots of cheers, unknowingly to over 3000 staff, they were to be “asked to resign or be sacked” the following day just as the year began on 3rd January.
Although the controversy has died down, criticism and anger continues to trail the dismissal of the former employees of the UBA who claimed the bank terminated their employment without prior notification.
Most of the affected workers contacted by THE ICIR, refused to speak for the fear that the bank could take legal actions against them.
Nonetheless, Kingsley Omah (not real name) one of the retrenched workers was willing to narrate his experience.
“The manner and way in which we were sacked, was orchestrated in such a way that if workers publicly condemn the bank, they might hold it against them as a breach of contract,” he said.
“I do not have any issues with UBA, my only annoyance was with the way it was done.”
The banker who worked for the organisation for 10 years as a retail manager said the dismissal came as a shock to some who had resumed work that year.
The bank replaced the old workers with new staff few days later.
The age of the newly employed staff range between 23 and 26 years old.
Kingsley is of the opinion that the bank was discriminatory and could get away with it as a private firm with very limited government interference.
“It is inconsiderate of a bank to sack workers like they are getting rid of spoilt goods. These new persons were recruited in November and the same hands that they (UBA) claimed are not okay for the job trained the new ones.
He bemoaned the “inhuman act “of the UBA group and top management who had on the 3 January sent an email through its in- house communication channel to the staff affected by the new corporate right sizing to wait after work hours for a briefing.
“Until 9 pm that day, some of us were yet to be briefed on why we had to wait. At the end of the wait, we were told by the top management that we have been “advised to resign in place of getting sacked!”
Kingsley told THE ICIR that the bank had played on the fragility and vulnerable state of the workers who had no other option but to write a resignation letter to save face.
“We had no other option, especially if one still has the intention of working in the banking sector or even the corporate world. No one wants to tell any prospective employer that they were sacked from their previous positions or asked to leave by the company, no matter the circumstances,” he said.
Other ex-staff of the institution that had “resigned” within the period told The ICIR that they could not speak freely without incurring legal actions from the company since they had tendered the resignation letters “as advised” by the bank to avoid getting a termination letter.
“It is all in the past now, life goes on. I don’t want to talk about it,” a former staffer said.
The UBA Group on 4 January in what some people said an attempt to launder its image, announced the employment of 4000 new staff and the promotion of over 5,000 with salary increment. But the bank has since remained mute on the public outrage over the mass sack on social media.
Severance payment and termination notice
As stated by the UBA Group, “termination benefits are within twelve months and are accounted for as short term benefits.”
Against unfounded claims in some quarters that the bank did not pay the terminated workers, The ICIR learned that the bank provided severance pay for all affected workers through the credit alerts received by them.
Kingsley whose initial salary payment was N73,900 excluding extra packages worth N13,000 received the sum of N635,000 after 10 years of service to the bank as a retailer, fund transfer and customer service agent.
However, the payment was slashed by 9.8 per cent after N62,000 tax due was deducted by the bank.
Although, based on the provisions of paragraph 26 of the Third Schedule to PITA, “any compensation for loss of employment” is exempted from personal income tax, unfortunately, section 6 of CGTA imposes capital gains tax (CGT) at 10 per cent on “any capital sum derived by way of compensation for any loss of office or employment”.
In terms of termination of a contract, the Nigerian Labour Act stipulated a contract shall be terminated in accordance with the provisions under section 11 which posits that “Either party to a contract of employment may terminate the contract on the expiration of a notice given by him to the other party of his intention to do so with the notice of one month, where the contract had continued for five years or more.”
According to findings from the reporter, as part of its conditions of service, the bank requires staff to give the institution a two- months notification before terminating her or his employment with the bank. However, provisions concerning the guidelines that would guide it [UBA Group] should they want to sack workers is unclear.
Laying-off workers without notice as stipulated by the law have long become a trend identified with Nigeria financial institutions as termination letters are often served in lieu of notice for “security reasons”.
The UBA Group presently runs its operation in 20 African countries, the United Kingdom, and the United States with a presence in France with a total of 12,909 staff out of which 9,572 are employed in Nigeria and are Nigerians.
National Labour Congress
Emmanuel Ugboaja, General Secretary of the National Labour Congress who spoke to The ICIR, said that the union was yet to get a formal report from the National Union of Banks and Insurance and Allied financial Institutions hence cannot intervene since no complaint of wrongdoing has been brought to their notice.
Ugboja, however, condemned the actions of private firms and cooperations that prey on gullible Nigerian by getting them to sign terms and conditions that are “highly unfavourable” to them and “due to the simple fact that people just want to keep busy.”
“We can not progress in this country if people keep quiet when things are going downhill. If the staff think their rights in any form have been violated, let them as a group under a union or as individuals covered by the laws of the Nigerian labour act make a formal report and stop telling stories.
” They should have refused to resign and instead insist that the bank sack them. Don’t sign what you don’t know,” Ugboaja said.
Nonetheless, he told the reporter that a thorough inquiry is the only way they can verify if there was any breach of contract.
“But it is quite disappointing, really. It is unfortunate that some of these ‘veterans’ that have worked for private firms often are not in possession of their letter of employment, They take these things for granted.”
UBA goes mute
The ICIR approached the senior staff of various UBA branches for comments, but none was willing to speak.
Subsequently, the Centre contacted the bank headquarters through the official number listed on its website, but could not get through. Instead, the repeated automated response was” all services are busy”.
An “inquiry ” email also sent to the bank was never responded to until the time of the publication of this article.
Meanwhile, one of the bank’s top officials who spoke to The ICIR anonymously confirmed that the bank paid all the affected workers, but sacking them came as a surprise to many.
He said that it is unlikely the affected staff would take any legal actions, as they “have decided to leave the rest in God’s hands”