With the crisis occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID- 19) pandemic showing no sign of abating, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria have started issuing new conditions of service to their staff as part of measures to cut costs,.
According to industry sources, bank staff who have been issued letters changing the terms and conditions of their employment, are given the option of either consenting to the new conditions of service, which would result in the employees taking home reduced wages, or submitting their resignations.
An employee of a Tier 2 lender, who confirmed the development in a chat with this newspaper, said that virtually every staff at her branch reluctantly consented to the new conditions of service, because “there are no jobs out there.”
The bank employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the new conditions of service were drafted in such a way that staff who have been working mainly from home since the industry started implementing COVID- 19 restrictions, were more negatively affected compared with colleagues who have to be in the office every working day.
The bank official said: “Although, nobody wants to hear that his or her salary has been reduced, the harsh state of the economy, coupled with the COVID- 19 crisis is obvious to everyone. Some of our colleagues have, in fact, been at home since last April, because their branches were among those shut by the lender when the government imposed pandemic restrictions.
So, you could say that the new conditions did not come as a surprise to many of us.” According to the banker, the only category of staff who resigned instead of consenting to the new terms of employment were those who had already planned to quit the profession for greener pastures abroad. I
n the wake of the spread of the pandemic to Nigeria last February, the lenders, in line with COVID- 19 protocols announced by the government and the country’s health authorities, had taken measures to avoid crowds and ensure social distancing at their branches and offices. As part of such measures, most banks temporarily shut some of their branches and either redeployed staff or directed them to be working from home.
However, most of the shut branches have still not be reopened, leading to the DMBs to disengage the contract staff – security personnel, cleaners and other administrative staff who had been made redundant. Indeed, following speculation that many banks were planning to embark on mass lay off of staff following the COVID-19 induced lockdown of the economy last April, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) held a meeting with bank CEOs during which an agreement was reached that lenders would not sack during the pandemic.
Akelicious gathered that despite the pact with the apex bank, some banks have been quietly firing their employees. A top bank official, who did not want to be named, said that even before the onset of the pandemic, most lenders were already struggling to cope with the harsh business environment and that the virus had made things even more difficult.
The official said: “When people hear that banks are declaring billions as profit, they don’t appreciate the challenges that the industry is facing. The economy is in recession; inflation has been rising in the last 16 months and banks have to maintain at least two functional generators in each of their branches.
When you add the cost of providing security, investing in IT equipment, stationery and so on, you will realize that the business environment here is really harsh for banks.” However, when contacted, President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye, told New Telegraph that members of her association had not reported receiving the new conditions of service from their employers.
She said: “No member of ASSBIFI has reported, officially or unofficially, receiving new conditions of service. You know, we have other unions in the industry. However, if I know any bank that is issuing new conditions of service, I will not hesitate to take the issue up with them.”
Akelicious had reported in 2018 that in their bid to cut costs, many banks scrapped pool cars and directed their staff to always use Uber and other ride hiring firms for official assignments.