“We suffered for that bank. Sometimes, we worked during weekends. My husband would complain and I would say, ‘I have to go, we don’t have another job’. Sometimes, I got back home by 10pm. We used our money to buy envelopes for customers. I spent all my youthful age with you. I am not saying you should not sack me; of course, I am not going to die in Ecobank but please pay me,” those were the exact words of a former member of staff of Ecobank affected by the recent downsizing.
Some of the affected workers have accused the bank of not complying with the terms of disengagement and also slashing their severance package. Ecobank had earlier denied this in a statement, saying only contract staff were dismissed and that it was not under any obligation to renew their contracts which was due to expire July 31.
The bank said it had already made “payment of contract cessation packages of over half a billion naira” to the outsourcing firms which employed the contract staff but some of the people affected told TheCable over 300 permanent staff have been sacked in 2019 alone.
PERMANENT STAFF LAID OFF TOO
A former official of the bank, who simply identified himself as Ayodele, told TheCbale that the company had sacked workers on three different occasions in 2019. He said over 2000 workers, both permanent and contract staff were laid off in January, May and July.
Ayodele said he was employed on permanent basis and worked for the bank for 13 years until he was sacked on May 17. He alleged that the bank laid off over 350 permanent members of staff in a bid to avoid promoting them.
“The bank has been claiming that they sacked only the contract staff whose contract ended, that is not true. Between January 1 and today, the bank has conducted three sack exercises,” Ayodele said.
“The first one was in January; they laid off people that they claimed have stayed beyond 10 years on a grade, that is the people that the bank refused to promote. They said that they have stayed beyond 10 years and that means those persons have not been performing.
“Nearly 1000 workers were retrenched in January, people who fell into the category of staying beyond 10 years on a grade were affected. They were paid a certain amount, I can say those ones were paid. It will be a lie to say that they were not paid. Then, another set of people were sacked on May 17 that is the category I belong to. Those ones were over 350, they were not paid what was due to them.
“They quickly brought the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and allied Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) president, Ecobank chapter, to send a mail to the entire bank, that was like four days to the time that they were to sack us. We were not pre-informed. I was a permanent employee of Ecobank and it is ASSIBIFI that controls permanent employee union.
“The one that happened last week Friday affected mainly tellers. Like in Ikorodu branch, out of 18 tellers, they sacked 17. They then recruited another set of 13 contract staff without experience.
“I worked for 13 years and wasn’t promoted for nine years and that seems to be the story of many of those affected. I was last promoted in January 2011. I was due for promotion when I was sacked. In fact, I was supposed to be among those promoted last year.”
Another affected person corroborated Ayodele’s claim, saying the bank failed to promote some members of staff for decades. He claimed that when he and some of his colleagues were due for promotion, the bank moved them to another department “so you now look like a new employee”.
“They had to redeploy us from the unit where we were. That is their tactic. They will redeploy you from the unit where you have been performing and they know that you are due and move you to another unit so you now look like a new employee in that unit,” he said.
“I was working in internal control group (ICG). What the bank did was to move over 70 of us from that (ICG) in August 2018 to remedial management department. The idea is that we were due for employment in ICG so they moved us to remedial department.
“The way the bank operates is that if you have spent like eight months in a department, it is that department that is supposed to appraise you. What they now did was to make sure that the remedial department appraised us after working just four months there. That is against the practice and policy of the bank.”
‘POOR SEVERANCE PACKAGE’
The workers all said Charles Kie, former managing director of the bank, had fixed N250,000 as severance package for every employment year upon the termination of an employee’s contract. However, the recently sacked workers said they got 30 percent or less of what they had been promised.
“The severance package paid to those sacked in January was fair. Even though, some of the people sacked in January were not paid. They had to go to NASSIBIFI to lodge complaint and protest. Some went to court. Eventually, they brought those ones back and paid them. This May, that was when president of NASSIBIFI president entered an agreement with management after having a discussion with the MD, on what we will be paid,” Ayodele said.
Another affected official, Akinleye Olusegun, who worked with the bank for 13 years, said they were enslaved.
“We were shocked recently when some people were sacked and some were left in the system though they are willing to go by July 31 because the slavery is getting out of hand,” Olusegun said.
“A colleague of mine that was sacked in November 2017 spent more than 10 years in the system and based on all performance, he was paid 800,000. So, we are expecting that people whose service will expire by the end of the month ought to have been paid more than that and the information we got was that the former MD signed N250,000 per year for each person.
“I worked for Ecobank for the past 13 years and I got N672,000 as severance package. If somebody who worked for 10 years can get up to N800,000, definitely I should have got over N2 million.”
I SPENT MY YOUTHFUL YEARS WITH THEM
Another staff identified as Patience who worked at a branch of the bank in Ikorodu said she had expected to be paid a minimum of N200,000 for each year she spent. She spoke of her plans to open a shop with the sum she calculated to be over N2 million but got only N577,000.
Patience said she was last promoted as an Oceanic Bank official and that after Ecobank took over in 2011, her salary was slashed.
“At the end of this July, some people were thinking the money they will pay us, we will use it to go into business. Most of us are almost 50 years old, we have spent 16 years. We joined when we were much younger but there was no promotion,” Patience said.
“So we were thinking that at the end of July, we would collect the money and do something else with our lives. Some people wanted to stay for another two years before they were asked to leave. On Friday, we called our contractors to ask what was happening and they said Ecobank said they didn’t want us anymore. They asked us to sign a clearance letter and our July salary would be paid. But some people were getting N25,000 per year as severance package and that was shocking. We woke up on Saturday morning to see the alert.
“I was working in front teller. October will make it 13 years of working with Ecobank. When I calculated what I was thinking of getting with what I was paid, I got depressed. We have been hearing a story all along that that man was not going to pay N250,000 that he may slash it down to 200. I calculated with that and I said two million plus is OK. I will get a shop and put something there if I don’t get a job.
“When the new MD came, he said we were going paperless but he has not made approval for any paperless thing. Some of the money customers keep in that bank is because of our loyalty to them, it is not because of the bank. A customer called and said I am removing my N15 million. I asked why and he said because ‘you’re not longer there. It is because you’re there that is why my money is there’. And we kept that for you, all you could do is say go home and you employed other people. What is wrong? We are too old? Then pay me off. I have spent all my youthful age with you. I am not saying you should not sack me, of course I am not going to die in Ecobank but please pay me.
“What I got, I paid my rent and part of the children’s school fees so I can have rest of mind. There is nothing left.”
ALLEGED TWIST IN APPRAISAL
“The process of appraising any staff of Ecobank is that you will appraise yourself and send it to your immediate boss. You will agree and discuss. If he agrees with you on the score, they will then send it to management. Then, there is this we called normalisation exercise where your boss that appraised you and the representative of HR will be there. Meanwhile, when they wanted to send us away, this last appraisal, what they did was the MD himself went to the normalisation exercise and prevented our bosses from defending the appraisal, apart from the fact that it was not our normal unit where we spent eight months,” Ayodele said.
“All the appraisal scores, with a maximum of five points, most of us got three but at the normalisation exercise, they pushed everybody from three to one without any justification. That is what they have been doing and we learnt that the exercise is going to continue like that.
“We were paid 30 or 40 percent of what we were supposed to be paid. They said it was due to appraisal. Meanwhile, there is nowhere in the policy where it is stated that your severance package will be paid depending on your approval. That thing just came up when they have decided to post us to a new unit and they then went to make sure that we got bad appraisal.
“We that were laid off in May, we got less than people that were laid off in January even though we stayed longer than them. That is the same thing that was done to those sacked recently. They had an agreement with the former MD that they will be paid N250,000 for each year you have spent in the bank and that is the basis of their protest. The new MD just came, it was not even the outsourcing forms that credited these people, it was Ecobank that credited them themselves.
“There was a person that had spent 19 years and was paid N610,000, despite the fact that you were poorly paid as a contract staff, earning about N70,000.
“Instead of N250,000 (for every year they worked) Ecobank brought it to half of their monthly salary. So, whoever is earning N60,000 will get N30,000 times the number of years you have spent. So, if you have spent 10 years, you’ll get N300,000 and that was not what was obtainable before. The contract staff that were laid off last year got more before this new MD came in.”
Ecobank was said to have brought in new contract staff to replace the sacked ones, contrary a move they did not expect.
ANOTHER PROTEST ‘COOKING’
Raji Rasheed, one of those sacked, said they were organising another round of protest.
“There is another protest tomorrow at the head office by 5am, everybody should be there. Tomorrow is going to determine who and who will get their money. I spent 15 years with them and what they gave me is just peanut,” Rasheed told TheCable.
A spokesperson of Vic Lawrence & Associates Limited, one of the outsourcing firms, confirmed that the bank made provision for the affected workers but did not disclose the amount.
The spokesperson, who did not want to be quoted, said there was never an agreement that the bank would pay severance package to the workers at the end of their contract, and that the bank was only magnanimous.
“The severance package, the bank informed us that initially when the contract started, that they were going to pay people off at the expiration of contract. The bank made us to understand that they were fair in the calculation of the severance they were paying,” he said.
“Not in any of the contract letters that we have with us has the bank promised that severance pay will be paid to anybody so, severance pay is discretionary. The bank has deemed it in their magnanimity to say that they will pay off staff which they did and which we appreciated.
“The basic calculation that was used is not in our knowledge. The bank informed us of the number of our affected staff and the amount paid to each of them as severance package.”
When TheCable contacted Gloria Byamugisha, head of human resources at Ecobank, for reaction, she said she would ask the head of corporate communications to return the call but had not done so as of the time this report was filed.
All attempts to reach Tope Akinbola, the bank’s head of corporate communications, did not yield any result as his telephone rang out endlessly. He is yet to respond to a text message sent.