Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Chinedu Bosah

The Corporate Headquarters of Union Bank was on Monday February 14 picketed by about 600 workers and pro-labour activists led by the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdul Wahed Omar to protest the sack of 13 union leaders and illegal proscription of the bank unit of Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) by the Bank Management led by the Managing Director, Mrs. Funke Osibodu. According to the management, the sacked workers were engaging in ‘unlawful operations’. The picketing was to continue till Friday February 18 2011 except on Tuesday Feb. 15 which is a public holiday.

Mrs. Funke Osibodu had in a show of arrogance and power drunkenness, asked the labour union to go to court to seek redress! All sacked workers are members of Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) affiliated to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). It would be recalled that Mrs. Funke Osibodu carried out the same heinous crimes on workers in Eko Bank when she was the boss. The management had sacked hundreds of workers last year and transferred many union leaders to remote branches in order to weaken the union.

The management has been employing this heinous action in order to drive down wage, sack more workers and deny worker their entitlement where necessary.

The management has also claimed that it is not recognising the ASSBIFIE affiliated to the NLC because it is illegal. There has been a dispute between NLC and TUC over who to organise the workers in Union Bank after ASSBIFI broke into two factions in 2007. The NLC’s faction of ASSBIFI has been in control in Union Bank, an action that did not go down well with TUC who claimed that by virtue of being senior staff and custodian of ASSBIFI certificate, it is supposed to organise the workers in Union Bank and elsewhere. The matter is now before the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP).

Management equally rushed to the court to get an injunction stopping the NLC and its affiliates from picketing the union bank as planned. In separate meetings with different categories of workers, Osibodu had threatened to sack any worker that joins the picketing and also offered monetary reward to workers who can openly oppose the NLC.

In a widely reported media statement, TUC through the Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary General Information/Media, Comrades John Kolawole and Jerry Amah state thus: “having watched and followed recent developments as well as comments and reactions from interested parties with regard to the decision by the management of UBN to formally withdraw its recognition of the bank’s unit of ASSIBIFI, the union is in quite support of it. We also see this as one of the numerous attempts by the new management to reform and reposition the bank. We had nursed the belief that the truth will eventually be revealed one day no matter how long it takes to subvert or hide it. The truth is that the workers of UBN are bona fide members of the ASSIBIFI whose National Secretariat is located at Alausa, Ikeja and affiliated to TUC by the relevant laws…”

We strongly condemn the position of TUC as reactionary, anti-workers and self-serving. A trade union centre should not in any guise support management’s unjust sack of workers, proscribing of union and victimising workers. We strongly hold the position that TUC should defend the overall interest of workers irrespective of who organises the workers in a particular workplace.

The Union Bank management has no right to meddle in union matters and it is not the management business on which labour centre workers choose to belong to. Workers have the democratic right to organise themselves in whatever way they choose including the right to make its leadership accountable.

At the first day of picketing of the banks headquarter at Marina, in Lagos Island, which was guarded by tens of fully armed mobile police men, the NLC president called on workers to remain resolute and the struggle would be deepened to the extent of mobilising more workers across the federation to join the struggle.

The morale of workers at the action which also had in attendance the General Secretary of the NLC, John Odah, labour leaders from a number of NLC affiliates, Segun Sango, the General Secretary of DSM, Wale Balogun, a leader of the United Action for Democracy (UAD) became high when news of picketing of Union Bank in several other states (Ogun, Bayelsa, Edo, Delta etc.) filtered in. One of the highlights of the picketing was when the petroleum transport workers union, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG ) joined the picket line blocking the two entrance of Marina road with two of there tankers.

The picketing action continued on Wednesday, February 16 and Thursday February 17 2011 after which the management was forced to sign an agreement with the NLC in the morning of Friday February 18 2011 accepting all demand including no victimisation of any worker who participated in the struggle.

This struggle goes to show that the organised trade union movement has the capacity to defend workers interests against employers of labour. The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) calls on NLC, TUC and its affiliates to move into workplaces and factories where workers are still under the hammer of management with the aim of defending workers’ interests and rights. This also includes building a mass based political party of the working class to liberate the masses.