How The Nigerian Banking Industry Is Gradually Becoming A “Sweatshop”

By  |  November 5, 2019

While Nigeria’s banking sector is known to be one of the biggest employers of labour in the country, some new ‘disturbing’ information has just come to light about the true nature of the employment opportunities in the industry.

On Monday, November 4, some new data from the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurances and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), may have inadvertently indicated that the banking industry in Nigeria is gradually becoming a sweatshop.

ASSBIFI said, currently, casual and contract staff accounts for up to 65 percent of staff in the Nigerian banking industry, as only 35 percent of workers in the industry are core staff.

According to the President of ASSBIFI, Comrade Oyinkansola Olasanoye, a lot of bank workers are sliding into extreme poverty because they are not appropriately compensated.

“In consideration of the statistics we have, at the moment, casual, contract and outsourced staff in the banking sector stands at about 65 percent. The implication is that, of the total workforce in the nation’s banking sector, only 35 percent are engaged as core staff. There are currently about 32 banks in Nigeria,” said Olasanoye.

She added: The statistic is not only frightening, but it has a grave implication for the sector, especially given that this category of workers is denied basic rights and treated shabbily. We are really pushing for the exploitative trend to be addressed in the interest of banking.”

So, there it is; Nigeria’s banking sector does employ more people than many other industries in the country. But most of the people who have found employment in the industry may, in fact, be suffering mindless exploitation. 

It does seem like the banks are taking advantage of the dire unemployment situation in the country and the desperation of frustrated job seekers who would take just about any job.

Image result for unemployment rate in nigeria graph 2019"
Graph showing the unemployment rate in Nigeria
Source: Trading Economics

In many Nigerian banks, contract/casual staff work the same hours as core staff, if not more. And they put in real work. But they are paid peanuts — most of them earn well below NGN 100 K monthly, and that’s even to set the bar high.

More worryingly, the contract staff who make up the bulk of the workers in the banking sector are not eligible for promotions and/or health insurance, and the other perks that core staff is entitled to; even though they (contract staff) easily work twice as much. This disparity in remuneration and compensation is something that needs looking into.

Igwe Dalu, a financial analyst, who has experienced the “discrimination” first-hand shared his thoughts on the matter with WeeTracker.

“There’s blatant discrimination against contract workers in the banking sector. I’ve been there so I know quite a bit about the internal workings of most banks,” he said.

“Most contract workers are paid poorly and not entitled to the benefits and promotions even though they put in the work but then again, it has more to do with the departments where they work out of. Banks believe that contract workers are more suited for monotonous roles that aren’t mentally tasking and as a result, they have this perception that these contract workers add little or nothing to the bottom line.”

He added: “A contract staff has to work twice as hard to get noticed by the top management. Banks also believe these guys aren’t equipped to carry out mentally tasking deliverables because of their background. A typical contract staff has an HND at best and the Nigerian perception towards such degrees in addition to the unemployment situation worsens the whole situation.”

ASSBIFI has, time and again, reiterated its commitment to supporting good wages, good conditions of social amenities and service, and a decent work environment to encourage productivity in organizations. 

These make up the very foundations upon which the Association is built. But very little ground has been covered on those fronts, though the president of the Association has demonstrated a keen interest in righting this wrong.

“This is why we had for the umpteenth time implored all workers to come together as one in solidarity to condemn precarious work, condemn slave labour, condemn insecurity, and condemn unfair wages and all forms of salary indirect reduction by whatever names and all unfair labour practices. Let us all say no to corporate greed, let’s all demand for living minimum wages, and a pay rise to all workers,” said Olasanoye.

“We have never tolerated casualisation of workers and contract staff which are prevalent in the finance sector. We are by each passing day frowning against the situation where employers shortchange and exploit workers.”

In any case, to fix the “discriminatory employment problem” in the Nigerian banking sector and bring an end to the unsavoury practice of not dishing out the appropriate compensation to people who put in just as much work as the so-called core staff, ASSBIFI will need to step up the effort. 

The Association has declared that it is taking up the issue with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), and Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA). This is, by itself, a necessary step in ensuring that the Nigerian banking industry does not gradually become a sweatshop.

Featured Image Courtesy: ZenithBank

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