Federal Government in Geneva threatened to withdraw operating license of banks or telecom operators who violated its order to put on hold the current mass sack in the two sectors.
Speaking at the on-going 105th Session of the International Labour Congress (ILC), in Geneva, Switzerland, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the government would go a step further, on erring companies, if the banks and the telecommunication outfits continue with the mass sack of the workers.
It could be recalled that the banking sector has in recent time embarked on massive retrenchment as a response to the current economic hardship with Ecobank Nigeria, last week sack of over 1,040 of its employees, Diamond Bank sacked over 200 of its workforce, while FBN Holdings, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, recently said it would prune the number of its employees by 1,000.
The minister, who addressed journalists immediately 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 licenses giving by the government. We know what to do. They need to comply. They need to come to the negotiation table.
“We did that 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 status quo. 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 the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) that the companies in the private sector has the sole power to hire and fire and that the power doesn’t resides in the government, Senator Ngige said the organised private sector, represented by NECA is protecting its own members, and merely expressing their opinion.
The minister warned that as much as the employers have the right, but cannot be done at the detriment of the Nigerian workers and the law of the land.
He said: “The organised private sector, NECA is protecting their own interest. They are a leg of the tripod, nothing stops them from having their own opinion. They are the section that protect private investors. They are 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 the 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, the 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 emphasised that they have not entered into collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which is the first step to take to lay off workers.