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Published On: Sun, Oct 5th, 2014

The hellish experience of Nigerian commercial bank workers

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EMEKA_WOGU-LabourMahmud Jika writes that many workers in Nigerian commercial banks are going through hell due to casualization.

Over dependency by most Nigerian commercial Banks on contract staff as its work force is gradually posing a threat not only to bank customers but to the entire Banking system in general. This has made many of their contract marketing staff to engage on shady integrity issues that is highly unprofessional. It involves forgeries of Identification cards, letter headed papers of various organizations for opening of salary accounts just to meet up with the various high target set up by their employers. Some even took to cash suppression of their customers due to under payment, unstable monthly payments and the introduction of “pay you selves” or “pay as you go” scheme introduced by the managements.

To add to the difficulty, their services were been engaged through a third party consultancy firms who exploits them with an entitled scheme of a commission based pay. ‘subject to the achievement of a set target of 90%-100% before the employee earns his basic monthly pay of N40,000, while those that unable to achieve the set target earns N0.00 for that month.

The set target includes a minimum of 80-90 individual accounts which comprise salary accounts, normal savings, and current accounts, with a minimum of N5000 opening balance on each. Or a minimum of 50 business accounts (co-operate) with a closing balance of N6,000,000- N10,000,000 by the month end.

However, this system is known as the Direct Sales Agent (DSAs), which is now a ramming sound in many Nigerian consolidated commercial Banks, as a means of cheap labour and getting excellent required number of new customers.

Peoples Daily, exclusively gain access into the largely unreported mode of operation and welfare package of these contract staff. An insight into a letter of employment given to one of a contract staff by a consultancy firm seconding him to a new generation Bank, revealed that the consultancy firm has a reserve right to terminate the employment without any reason nor prior notice as it is the practice in a descent society. The employee is only entitled to 10 days off as his annual leave, after a12 month routine. It further stated that absenting from work for 10 days, no matter the excuse will lead to termination of employment. Moreover, the contract employment is subject to a successful completion of three months’ probation period, while training and orientation is on the market field. The scheme has no provision of any mandatory registration/pension contribution as required by Nigerian pension law; also National health Insurance cover is not part of it.

It reads in parts, employee is entitled to a commission based pay and additional commission on additional sales as enumerated below: Base pay of N40, 000 broken down into N25, 000 and N15, 000 transport allowances, which is subject to the achievement of 75% of the target. N40, 000 subject to the achievement of 95% -100% of the target. N15000 is subject to the achievement of 75% of the target, while N0.000 is less than 74% of the target. Commission is based on value in the accounts, while base pay is on volume.

The exploitative nature of these Direct Sales Agents varies from one bank to another depending on the set up contracts arrangement between the principle and the contracting firm; this makes the employee to be at the receiving end.

Another employment letter from a consultancy firm, seconded to another bank indicates that, the DSAs are to pay themselves with the number of accounts they attracted to the bank. In a layman language, it means that only current account /salary current account and business accounts will count for them.

It was gathered that each of the accounts is been tagged N400 when is opened with an opening balance of N5000 for normal current account, while for salary account is when the salary of the account owner drops. For cooperate accounts, it requires opening balance of N20, 000. The DSA will earn N1000 as his pay. These amounts will be sum up and be paid after 40 days of vigorous work.

If a DSA was able to source five current accounts in 40 days, he will only earn N2000 as salary. N200 may be added on it, when the customer requests and activates ATM card. A direct sales Agent, in one of the performing consolidated Banks who pleaded anonymity said he has been in the system for over three and half years with no hope of becoming a permanent staff. He described the scheme as a co-operate slavery happening for years under the watchful eyes of financial regulatory bodies such as Central Banks of Nigeria.

He said that a DSA may work over a month without earning a single kobo, the reason is simple, he didn’t meet the target, even if is half way, no pay for you. No one cares to know how you transport yourself to work and a query awaits you if you absent for one day.

When asked on what kept him going without three month’s pay, he replied he is only relaying on the opening balance his customers gave for account opening, which he uses for his transportation and other minor needs, he pays in later when another customer brings in another opening balance. He has to continue until paid upon meeting the set target. Then he will forward all the pending accounts opening to the system.

Another DSA with another Bank confirmed the practice is factual. According to him, “they don’t cares about us, our wellbeing and welfare, what they only care is that you must come to work by 7;30 am, you must look co-operate, look smart and bring sales to the bank.

“Most of us may work for the whole year and can’t buy a single suite of N15, 000, because we have no stable salary and a lot of pressure from the customers we suppressed their cash and those we borrowed from, which we used for transportation and other needs, but these banks are busy celebrating billions of Naira as their profits and capital base.

He lamented that they are finding it very difficult to plan their future.

“In this kind of situation, many of our colleagues now buy cars using customers’ money through cash suppression method” he said.

He narrated how an ex female colleague banker established herself with N4.5 million belonging to her three customers and have her employment terminated when the bank got wind of it.

“An ex- female colleague in one of our branches in the north-east suppressed N4.5 million naira belonging to her three customers, after she spent five solid years as a DSAs with nothing to show for it, she established herself with the cash secretly, when the issue came out the bank terminated her employment and asked the customers to go and settle with her because the transaction didn’t happen within the bank’s vicinity.

“Now she is remitting it from the profit is getting on her business. That is why many of us invoke many dubious techniques to keep us moving even though is risky.

He also revealed that in other to stay afloat they resort to Round Tripping Account, a situation whereby they persuade a customer to operate four different accounts in a single bank given the fact that any account they brought can only count for one month.

“Some of us forged identification cards, letter heading papers of different organizations and snapped photos of different people as passports, which we use in opening fake salary accounts, just to enable us achieve the number of accounts required us to meet in a month. Technically we are helping them to have a bulk of dormancy accounts, with no value to enable us get our pay” he revealed.

it is unfortunate that this revelation is coming just less than a month 13 of consolidated Nigerian commercial banks were enlisted among 1000 global banking rating.

When contacted a branch manager in one of the top five Nigerian banks, who pleaded anonymity said the over-dependency on contract staff has a lot of side effect than just a cheap labour aspect of banking policymakers are relaying on.

“In my branch, I have 25 staff working with me, but unfortunately only three of us are core banking staff, I, head of operations and one marketer who is assisting the DSAs on the account initiations. The head of operations also serves as a cash officer, while am a full time marketer.

“From the tellers, bulk tellers, cleaners, security, dispatch, customer cares, drivers and DSAs are all contract staff of the bank. The most unfortunate aspect of it is that none of them is earning a reasonable amount compared to the services they are rendering. The topmost earner among them is the teller who earns N42, 000 in a month, some are earning as low as N9, 000 a month, which is very dangerous by exposing them to customers money while they are earning almost nothing”.

He described the scheme as a one way traffic, as many DSAs are coming in, many are dumping the system, that is why internal cases of cash suppression and un- reconcile figures are so rampant in both marketers and operations respectively.

Peoples Daily, investigations revealed that with the exception of First City Monument Bank which pays its DSAs a fixed N25, 000 as bicycle allowance and internal mechanism of co-opting them into the main stream strictly on performance, the remaining banks only use and dump them at will. Some banks have introduced’ pay as you go’ plan for their DSAs, any savings account with N5000 a DSA brought to the bank earns him N500 as his work pay, if he is able to bring in 20 accounts in a month his month end basic will be N10,000 no more no less. How the bank calculates the commission on the exceeding performance for the DSAs remain a mirage as some are said is 0.0025.

Further checks show that the managements of these banks employ discreet recruitment approaches in carrying out the exercise. One of such, a three-prong technique, our correspondent gathered, largely revolves around the banks, outsourcing firms and the employees. While the banks engage the outsourcing firms or vendors, as middlemen, the latter reach out to prospective employees. Though the banks’ personnel needs vary, they reportedly use this method in recruiting all manner of people ranging from cashiers, tellers’ operators, security officials, dispatch riders to cleaners.

But why do these profit-making financial houses prefer to remain in the background? An ex Bank Manager says it borders on cost. He insists that they are just avoiding cost, nothing more and nothing less.

“In as much as these employees are believed to be on contract, there are no entitlements for them from the banks.”

Pleading anonymity, another victim of this policy, whose case with one of these banks is still in the court, agrees with the ex bank manager’s position. According to him, after using his productive years for so many years, doing overtime without additional pay, the bank suddenly sacked him without any form of compensation.

In a swift reaction, a bank source told Peoples Daily that they are trying hard to distance their institutions from casualisation. According to the head of corporate communications in one of the banks, who pleaded not to be named because he needed the approval of higher authority, “this category of workers does not belong to the bank.

“Did you see any employment letter from these banks with the staff? In fact, that easily tells you that they do not belong here,” he notes rudely.

Several attempts to get the reaction of the Director Cooperate Communications of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mu’azu Ibrahim proved abortive as he did not pick his calls and text message sent to his personal line was not replied to as at 10pm press time on Sunday.

A senior official at the CBN headquarter, who pleaded anonymity told Peoples Daily that the apex bank is aware of it, but is handicapped on acting on such matters. He said reporting on such issues will not change anything, because of the powerful interests involved.

When contacted, Assistant-Secretary General of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Alhaji Hassan Anka, said the union is against any form of exploitation, slavery, related subjugation and that the union will respond very soon after full scale investigation of the allegation.

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