Abuja – The Federal Government on Thursday in Abuja directed the management of banks to compile with all labour laws regulating industrial relations in the country. Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, gave the directive at an interactive meeting with Chief Executives of Banks and Financial Institutions in the country. Ngige said that the ministry had received various petitions from unions in the banks on alleged “sharp labour practices’’ by the management of the institutions. He said some banks had refused to allow their staff to join unions of their choice , which is against the law. “The unions also complained of non- remittance of checkup dues collected from them by the banks. “They complained that in some cases the unions received what they called as handouts from the banks instead of checkup dues which are not the same thing. “They also complained of imposition of executive structures even when unionization is allowed, among others.” He said that the unions cited several practices which are against the principles of decent jobs as stated in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention Ngige said that by the ILO convention, the ministry was supposed to handle the issues raised by the unions to avoid industrial crises. “Nigeria is a signatory to those conventions and many instruments of the ILO and if our country is taken over to the meeting, which is also a United Nation body, we will be sanctioned. “When we are sanctioned, the sanction elements actually will rest on this ministry and the Federal Government of Nigeria. “That is why the ministry must maintain industrial relations and peace as it concerns labour issues in the country. “We have discussed with the unions, now we are discussing with you so that we will look at the allegations bank by bank and hear you own side of the story,” he said. He said that the meeting would also look at the issue of redundancy procedures, unionisation, rights to collective bargaining, casual and contract staff as well as regulated hours of work as stipulated by ILO convention. The Minister said that the ministry was ready to do a framework for contract staffing regulations in banks as it was done the oil industries. Ngige expressed the ministry’s concern over the moribund state of the Nigeria Employers Association of Banks, Insurance and Allied Institutions which is supposed to be the umbrella body for all banks employers. He called on the Chief Executives of the banks to resuscitate the association. ‘ Also speaking, Mr Kolawole Balogun, Deputy Director, Banking Supervisor Department in the Central Bank of Niger (CBN), said several meetings have been held concerning the issues raised by the unions. Balogun said that the CBN Governor was passionate about the development of the country’s finances and the rebuilding of unemployment in the banks to expand the economy. “We have looked at our laws and in as much we cannot impose staff on any bank we can engage them on moral suasion and that is exactly what we are doing now “We are also coming up with a circular that when these banks are about to disengage workers, they should let us know and reasons should be given on why the action is being taken,’’ he said. He pledged CBN’s support to the ministry and also assured the minister that the lacunas in terms of labour laws would be honoured by the banks. Mr Shehu Aliyu, Acting Group Executive Director, First Bank, who spoke on behalf of other banks, said the banks were ready to partner and obey the labour laws to ensure industrial harmony in the sector. NAN reports that representatives of Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation and all others banks across the country were also present at the meeting.
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