First Bank Nigeria Limited has finally paid terminal benefits to the over 300 core staff affected by its controversial job cut in August 2017, the NEXT EDITION can authoritatively report.
Already, the accounts of the disengaged core staff have been credited with funds suspected to be severance payment.
However, nothing has been paid to the contract workers who were also sacked by the bank.
This newspaper had last year uncovered how the bank shortchanged its core and contract staff through unfair labour policies and shady Human Resources practices that spanned years.
An earlier investigation had shown how it sacked over 1,000 contract staff using phone text messages. Click here to read report
The bank had denied the report, claiming it followed due process in disengaging the affected staff across over 500 branches nationwide.
But a follow-up report by this newspaper showed at least 300 core staff were also fired by the bank in one night without recourse to agreed contractual and statutory obligations. Click here to read report
Although it agreed to pay the affected core staff, our investigation showed it never kept that promise two months after laying them off.
“You will be paid your salary and due allowance up to and including the date of termination and one-month basic salary in lieu of notice,” a part of the termination letter obtained by this newspaper reads.Click here to read the third report.
But after months of denial and pressure, the authorities of the bank in November 2017, released the one- month basic salary in lieu of termination to the disengaged workers.
One of the affected staff who gave his name simply as Abubakar told this newspaper, “It was after your reports and that of other media organisations that the bank reluctantly paid us the one-month in lieu.
“Ordinarily, the money should have been paid just as we were being asked to go but that did not happen.”
He described the action of the bank as “complete rubbish,” saying the disengaged staff were divided into two groups.
“What they did was complete rubbish. They divided the disengaged staff into two groups,” Mr. Abubakar said.
“They called one group, performers and the other non-performers. Those they classified as performers were paid nine months’ salary while the other group got four months only as settlement package.
“Those in the non-performers group were basically staff on the Special Retail Team. Even the one month in lieu wasn’t paid immediately. It was paid in November, about three months after we were disengaged.”
A serving staff who pleaded not to be named for fear of sanctions revealed that the bank deducted loans taken by the disengaged core staff before paying their severance entitlements.
She also disclosed that nothing was paid to the over 1000 contract staff that were sacked by the bank in August 2017.
She said, “We believe that part of what the bank achieved through the payment was to deduct loans taken by the disengaged staff.
“While many of the affected staff didn’t collect loans, those who owed the bank forfeited their pay.
“Many of them were left with little or nothing. It was very inhuman because these people did not voluntarily resign and they did not commit any offence.
“It was the bank that laid them off and then turned around to take the little money they could have used to start their lives afresh,” the source said.
The NEXT EDITION learnt the local branch of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) kicked against the deductions and threatened to call its members out on an industrial action.
But the FBN’s management was said to have immediately summoned the union leaders still in service and threatened to also disengage them if they make trouble.
Afraid of losing their jobs, the union leaders were said to have shelved its planned showdown with the bank.
“It got to a stage that the management was threating some of the union leaders who insisted that the right thing should be done,” an official of the bank told this newspaper.
“Most of those still in service got scared and would no longer push the bank to honour its contractual agreement with the disengaged core workers.”
While confirming the payment of the severance allowance, another disengaged staff, Maryam Yakubu, said First Bank did not follow its laid down exit policy in disengaging them.
“They have a policy for exiting staff and I can tell you the bank did not follow its laid policy,” she began.
“The same night the bank promoted about 3,000 staff, it sent away 300 including me and the next morning, we couldn’t access our mails.
“At the same time, over 1000 contract staff had earlier been disengaged in a nation-wide purge.
“The bank has been lying because in Nigeria, an organisation can do anything and get away with it. Besides the regulatory mechanisms are not simply working.
“They did not follow any laid down rule in the process of disengaging the either the core and contract staff.’
Mrs. Yakubu said despite the payment, the disengaged have concluded plans to drag the bank to court to challenge their sack.
When contacted first in April and again in May, the bank’s spokesperson, Babatunde Lasaki, said he was out of the country and will only address the issue once he is back in the country.
However, when he was again contacted last week, he insisted he would no longer speak to us.
“I don’t want to speak to you on the matter. I am sorry,” Mr. Lasaki had told our correspondent.