Hundreds of staff of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) will no longer be on the employment of the bank in 2020 after they were asked to resign in an on-going restructuring exercise being conducted by the bank, PREMIUM TIMES‘ findings show.
Multiple sources told this newspaper that many of the affected staff are officers who have spent between 10 to 13 years in the service of the bank.
Some of the affected staff, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES under the condition of anonymity, gave different narratives of how the exercise was conducted at different branches of the bank nationwide, between last December and the first week of January. They also said that the decision came to them as a rude shock.
The development has since caused disquiet among staff and a section of the public, amidst reports of mass lay-offs in the bank.
But in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, the bank’s spokesperson, Nasir Ramon, said that there was no lay-off of staff in the bank. Mr Ramon explained that some staff who “under-performed” during the bank’s internal appraisal exercise were advised to resign based on UBA’s right-sizing policy.
The right-sizing exercise, he said, also involves the streamlining of the bank’s grade structure so that staff can enjoy “an accelerated professional life”, adding that affected staff would be paid their rightful emoluments.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday morning, an affected staff in one of the bank’s Lagos branches, explained that the exercise began in November when some new recruits were drafted to the branches for training.
“The new guys were trained and we were told that they would join the operations departments in our branches,” the staff, who asked not to be named, said. “But last December, we were told that some people would have to go. On January 4, many of us were denied access to the bank’s portal and it dawned on us that we have been affected.”
According to the official who claimed to have spent over 13 years in the bank, people affected in the exercise are largely staff who have spent between 10 to 13 years in the service of the bank. He, however, disclosed that they are already being paid their emoluments even though he currently does not have access to the money.
“Maybe some of us are owing the bank (in loans),” he said, of possible reasons why the money cannot be accessed yet.
Another source within the bank told PREMIUM TIMES that the bank, through a consultancy firm, hired new employees on December 6.
According to him, the new hands were drafted to different branches and trained in the operations department, with details that about six would join each of the selected branches. On Friday, January 2, the source said that Regional Operations Managers were then instructed to inform the affected staff members about the rightsizing exercise and the resignation option.
Perhaps to forestall possibility of a paper trail, the source said the information was passed orally.
Bank Explains Stance
Mr Ramon, in an interview on Monday, said there was no lay-off in the bank.
He added that the information being pushed out by some of the affected staff is largely “untrue”.
“There was no lay-off in the bank but people were advised to resign based on our right-sizing policy. The bank concluded its appraisals in December. Every year, we do two appraisals in UBA; one in June and one in December. After the second appraisal, the management of the bank takes decision. In this year, decisions that were taken include that 5,000 staff will be promoted and 5,000 staff was promoted on Friday,” he said.
“Another decision that was taken is that our 16-level grade structure should be collapsed into 12 so that these staff can enjoy an accelerated professional life. Also, in the last quarter of last year, the bank employed over 4,000 staff which is still ongoing. Over 4000 staff were employed by the bank between September and December last year and this is an ongoing exercise.
“Now, in any normal appraisal process, people who have performed exceptionally well will be promoted and (for) people who have performed above average, their salaries will be increased. In our own case, every staff in this bank enjoyed between 50 to 150 per cent salary increment. The lower your level, the more percentage you enjoy in this increment.
“But, those who have consistently failed the appraisal system, who have performed below par in the two appraisal systems culminating into the decision taken on Friday, were advised to resign. That’s why I said it was not a layoff. They were advised to resign and if advised to resign, they would be paid between 8 to 12 months of their salary. If you were advised to resign and you take that advice, you will be paid between 8 and 12 months of your gross salary not even net… your gross salary.”
Mr Ramon explained further that, in essence, what the bank has done is to simply realign its workforce by embarking on downsizing. He explained that the bank recruited staff but those the system considered to have under-performed were asked to go.
On allegations that the affected staff could not access their portal, he said they could not access their portal because the process is still ongoing, adding that their full emoluments would be paid.
“It’s like that anywhere in the world,” he said. “If you are advised to leave the bank, some of the job’s basic access will be withdrawn.”
He also said that the basic remuneration details have been communicated to the affected staff by Monday afternoon, while those promoted have also been informed.
PREMIUM TIMES sighted a promotion letter addressed to one of the staff members, which shows a distinct category in employees’ growth.
No Mass Sack
The bank’s spokesperson argued that the bank was careful not to sack the affected staff. According to him, the decision was based on the desire to allow affected staff move on by getting employed elsewhere.
He said: “Today, (the bank does not) want to sack anybody because they believe that you can still get (an) opportunity elsewhere. As you are going elsewhere to go and work, you should not be sacked.
“If you are advised to resign and you do so, every recommendation that is due for you for your next engagement will be given to you. And if you cannot get an immediate employment your salary will paid between 8 and 12 months and it will be paid in bulk so that if you want to become an entrepreneur, you can use that money to start your business.”
On reports that the action was directed at contract staff, Mr Ramon argued that there are no contract staff in UBA, except the people in charge of logistics, drivers and security personnel.
“We don’t have contract staff in UBA,” he said. “The only contract staff we have in UBA are drivers and securities. In UBA, there is nothing called contract staff.”
He explained that since the bank is not a logistics firm, issues of logistics, driving and security, are handled by another firm other than the bank. One of the affected staff confirmed to this newspaper that there are no contract staff in the bank, although he could not confirm the status of the newly recruited staff members.
Policy not for cost-cutting
Mr Ramon also explained that the right-sizing policy was not borne out of the decision to cut cost, as is often done in corporate decision-making situations.
”Do you know that in the bank, the cost for workforce, payment for salary, will increase by almost 30 per cent due to this decision? So, this decision is not about cost-cutting because most laying off is about cost-cutting. but in our own case the cost of promotion, the cost of the increase in salary, will go up” he said.
“This bank is not talking about cost-cutting, that is why we are employing. In UBA, what we are doing is extensive recruitment. Last quarter, over 4000 people were recruited. Today UBA has largest staff rate in any bank in the country and in Nigeria (because) we have over 12,000.”
Mr Ramon also said that because the process is ongoing, he would not be able to give the exact number of people affected by the right-sizing decision. According to him, some staff members may choose not to accept the option of resignation.
However, the process will be completed very soon, he added.
“5,000 peoples’ lives have been affected by the promotion, 4, 000 peoples’ lives have been affected by series of engagement both new hires and experienced hires, thousands of people’s lives have been affected based on the fact that grade structure have been reduced from 16 to 12. Enough of possible impacts have happened on those who have received an increase in their salaries. So, that is the essence of the exercise,” he argued.