FG says banks must obey extant labour laws

The Federal Government has insisted that banks and other companies in the finance sector must obey the extant labour laws in the country, while warning that it would not tolerate flagrant disobedience of the labour laws and other regulations.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, gave the warning during an interactive meeting with stakeholders in the banking and finance sector, on the recent gale of retrenchments in some banks across the country.

Reaffirming what he described as zero tolerance of the present administration for disobedience to national laws, the minister said the companies operating in the sector cannot continue to disobey the law of the land.

Ngige said,  “you must obey all laws of the land including labour laws, such as the Trade Union Act, T14 law of the federation concerning redundancy and the Trade Dispute Act which deals with the management of trade disputes including employee-employers’ relationship.”

He explained that Nigeria is a signatory to International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions which promote decent jobs and frowned at unfair labour practices, adding that Nigeria cannot afford to be found wanting by the international body in this regard.

He said, “The ILO takes very seriously the issue of workers maltreatment in various guises, be it in the industries, construction sites or public service. Workers should be treated with dignity and decency.”

While allaying the fear of stakeholders in the banking and finance sector, Ngige stated that his intervention was not an undue interference, but a proactive measure aimed at finding lasting solution to the looming industrial unrest in the sector, being the Minister as empowered by the constitution and other extant labour laws.

Speaking on behalf of banking and finance regulators, the representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Kolawole Balogun, said CBN was determined to support any development that would lead to reduction of unemployment through diversification of the economy.

According to him, “we have looked at our laws in terms of our limitations. In as much as we cannot impose staff on any bank, we can engage them on other solution and that is what we are doing now. We have even gone a step further to look at how we can know why they are actually disengaging their staff.

“We will soon come up with a circular for the banks to ensure that if they are going to disengage up to a certain number of staff they should let us know and explain why. Although times are challenging at the moment, they can still manage to keep some level of their staff and remain profitable.”

In his remarks, the representative of First Bank of Nigeria, Mr Shehu Aliyu, stated that as responsible employers and major players in the nation’s economy, banks management cannot afford to breach the laws of the country at will.

He, however, commended the efforts of the minister in facilitating the platform to find amicable solution acceptable to all stakeholders, while assuring him of banks management’s willingness to dialogue and discuss within the purview of the Nigerian laws.