First Bank

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Union Bank Sacks 137 staff as Sad staff tells tales of Modern day Slavery

Union Bank, on Monday, sacked another 137 staff in continuation
of the ongoing downsizing of its workforce as a result of the current reform in the banking sector. The affected staff were disengaged, following decision on outstanding disciplinary cases, while some were sanctioned for various acts of misdemeanour.
Meanwhile, the bank has recruited another 150 graduates to reinvigorate its workforce. The newly employed staff, which include about 70 of the bank’s current temporary/out-sourced staff, were selected after recruitment procedures and they are to undergo a five-week induction programme at different locations across the country.
This will prepare them for the challenges of banking and to integrate them into the bank’s culture of professionalism and best ethical practices.
The bank had earlier employed 500 fresh graduates as part of the efforts to regenerate its human capital, while the management reassured customers and other stakeholders of its commitment towards positive and progressive transformation of the bank to maximise the opportunities presented in the industry.
From my experience as a staff of Union Bank PLC, I think the following should be added to the several factors that could cause the fall of a brand:
1. Poor staff welfare
2. Poor or zero capacity building
3. Chauvinistic management
Poor staff welfare – THE UNION BANK CASE
I have always held the notion that if you must kill a community, you must first kill its core values. The same thing applies to any organization. There is no need debating the fact that human resource is one of the core values of any organization especially in the banking sector.
In the case of Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, its human resource (staff of the bank) cannot at the moment be classified as part of the values of the bank putting into cognizance the bigotry approach in which management of the bank ensure or provide basic staff welfare.
Health of mind and body they say is wealth. The story is not the same in Union Bank of Nigeria PLC as far as its staff is concerned. Instead, health of mind and body is rare to staff of the bank. There are lots of factors that engender good health of mind and body; family, finance, positive endearvours, job satisfaction etc. When all these factors are mixed in the right proportion, there is bound to be good health of mind and body. All these factors do not mix well for current staff of Union Bank of Nigeria PLC no thanks to poor staff welfare in the bank.
Yes there is the saying that the grass is not green everywhere but in Union Bank of Nigeria PLC with its current management and staff welfare, there is no grass at all. When the current management of the bank was installed by the Apex bank on August 14th, 2009 took charge of affairs, there were hopes that the new management will help fast track the change project that was started before they came on board. Part of the objectives of the change project was to change the perception of every Union Bank staff through the provision of top notch staff welfare programs, second to none in the industry. This was in the view to motivate personnel for business productivity and growth. This same change project brought about the induction programs for graduate trainees in 2009, the first of its kind in the history of the bank which I was privileged to be a part of.
Today, the opposite is the story as far as staff welfare is concerned. I would like to go into several salient areas where the current management of Union Bank of Nigeria PLC have failed in terms of staff welfare but I am going to focus on just one of the areas.
I don’t know why I am focusing on this area alone, perhaps it’s because sometimes it reminds me of the fact that it is an act that is unheard of anywhere in the world or just because it makes me laugh and shake my head in dismay every time it strikes me again that what I am about to share with you is one of the several myopic management policies in Union Bank of Nigeria PLC.
Currently in Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, when staff go on leave, they are only entitled to 80% of their leave entitlement. The remaining 20% is payable on one condition. The condition is that the staff on resumption of duty after leave, must provide the HR department of the bank with documents including Basic Traveling Allowance BTA, air ticket, hotels ticket etc, just to prove that they traveled abroad. Anything short of these and the remainder part of the staff’s entitlement – what is rightly theirs in the first place is forfeited forever. Even if the 20% of the leave entitlement is 1naira; for heavens-sake, it is an appalling situation, day light robbery as you may like to call it.
Now I don’t want to even go into details or questions of what happens to such monies that are forfeited in the case where staff on leave do not travel abroad because I can beat my chest that only a few staff travel abroad for vacation. Of utmost concern to me is the degrading scenario where staff have to travel to just Ghana in order not to forfeit what is rightly theirs. I mean, if I tell this story to my unborn children, they will scream “MODERN SLAVERY DADDY!”
Nigeria is a richly blessed country in terms of natural endowment. From the north to the south, east to west, there are beautiful places to visit and the finest of festive activities to be part of. Imagine that as a Nigerian, you have not even explored one tenth of the tourist attractions in the country only for you to be compelled to travel to another man’s country so that you won’t lose what is yours. I think I am going to go by the way of my unborn children – “MODERN SLAVERY!”
This is a painful thing to bear, but what is more painful is the fact that this policies don’t affect staff high up in the banks hierarchy. Whether they travel or not, they collect their full entitlement and allowances. Even when they travel abroad, it does not deplete the 80% part of their entitlement. The staff that bear the brunt are staff down the hierarchy whose 80% part of their leave entitlement cannot even afford a good vacation in the first place.
Goodness me!, which organization does a barbaric thing such as this to its staff in this jet age? Of all the factors that could bring about the fall of a brand, poor staff motivation is one dreaded factor and I don’t think you get a lot of A+ in that aspect when you dictate and subject your staff to modern slavery by stealing what is rightfully theirs by way of prejudiced policies.
By this singular act, the current management of the bank is killing staff morale, and if you kill staff morale you are indirectly killing the staff and whatever belief the staff have in the bank. When you kill the staff you kill one of the core values of the bank, in fact the most important value of the bank and when you start killing the values of the bank, you are indirectly killing the brand no matter how beautiful you may paint it on the outside.
Poor or zero capacity building – THE UNION BANK CASE
In 2009, Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, cashed in on a good number of good hands when it carried out series of induction program for graduate trainees cadre probably for the first time in the history of the bank considering the manner in which the recruitment exercise and the induction program proper was organized.
I don’t want to go into details of what may have become of these graduates in terms of personal and professional skills but with the current approach of the bank in rebuilding capacity, I don’t think the best will be gotten out of it.
Union bank used to pride itself as the trainers of other banks’ staff with its training school spread across the federation. During the era of the management before the current management, I meet Union bank staff especially from their IT department at training centers for short/crash courses. Today it is not exactly the same anymore.
When I inquired I discovered that rather than send staff on training, the current management has thought it wisely to subject all staff to what they call e-learning. For those who don’t know what e-learning in a working environment may entail; it means from time to time, the bank will nominate a staff to take a course on the e-learning platform and of course there is always a window allotted for such exercise. At the end of the course, you are also expected to either take an exam or not depending on the volume of the course.
The ugly head in this situation is that you are expected to meet the deadline for the exercise which of course means you are compelled to find time within working hours to finish up your e-learning course without affecting your job in any ways.
Now I may not fault this policy in anyway, but let us face the fact; in as much as this approach of capacity building may suit staff from some department depending on the background of their discipline, it may not suit some department very well for example IT.
We all know that some departments are more practical oriented than others, but compelling an IT staff for instance to take courses on some e-learning platform is obviously a joke. If what I fear is true concerning IT staff and the e-learning platform thing then I think we customers have to be wary.
How do you intend to sharpen the technical skills of a programmer, a network engineer and a database specialist without practical class sessions. Even professional and more theoretical programs like ICAN needs class session let alone more technical ones like information technology.
Whether this approach to capacity building by the management of the bank is a deliberate one or not, what is clear is that it is not the best practice and it surely will affect the brand Union bank very negatively.
Chauvinistic management – THE UNION BANK CASE
Part of management’s functions is to take decisions and to make policies and the same is expected of Union bank’s management. Whatever the decision taken by management of any organization, it is expected that the effect is reflected in the customers satisfaction and 100% willingness of staff to reproduce outstanding performance.
Authoritatively more than 70% of the decision taken by the current management of Union bank has affected the staff more than the customers. If the ways in which it has affected staff is positive, one would not frown much but the direct opposite is the case as these decisions have affected staff negatively.
Since the current management of the bank took over the leadership role of the bank, it has released more than ten decisions taken on disciplinary matters. Every time disciplinary actions are released you find more of termination, dismissal, warning, caution than commendation.
Decision on staff promotion for instance is very far from the plans of the current management of Union bank. They take delight in releasing decisions taken on disciplinary actions and other policies that make staff lives miserable.
One begin to wonder if the only thing the current management of the bank has come to do is to attack staff of the bank in every way they know best. Sometimes you begin to wonder if you are in a supposedly world class organization or you are still in a secondary school especially when the mail signature of the head of HR of the bank almost sounds like – “Staff who miss the deadline of this exercise would be sanctioned”
The only language in which the management of the bank communicate with its staff is the language of threat. When management is expected to be taking first class decisions to better the lives of customers, they plot ways to carry out ridiculous transfers and truncate staff career.
Ridiculous transfers is the order of the day in Union bank. Take for instance an IT staff being transferred to the remotest area of the country as customer service officers, Account officers, cash center officers, marketers, etc. What on becomes of the person’s professional career growth path?
One expect the management of the bank to know better that there are specialized department that means round pegs are put in round holes. Where in the world is it heard or done that computer engineering graduates who have gained quite a good amount of experience in the IT department of the bank are transferred as customer service officers, loans and advances officers, cash center officers, marketers etc. Of what benefit is it to the bank, the staff and the customers at large when such transfers are made? Perhaps the current management of the bank is trying to tell us that there was recruitment error in the first place which also says a “lot” about the HR department of the bank.
In most organizations around the world, there are what you call the front line officers and the back end officers. You don’t get to see the IT officers of DHL for instance every other day. They are at the background making sure things are in place for peoples parcel to get delivered. If they have to move or be transferred, they are transferred to different unit of the same department just to expand their horizon in a familiar territory. You don’t bring a farmer to do a surgeons job, it is suicidal.
Whatever motive is behind the manner in which the current management of the bank takes its decision, it is clear that it is a purely chauvinistic management that takes delight in stiffening the environment for staff.
Of what benefit is this kind of approach you may want to ask, and though it is said that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the owner of the head should be humble enough to ask people around if the cap fits and seek for support when needed. But I wonder who the current management of the bank will turn to for support when it treats it staff with utmost scornfulness.
In the case of union bank it is like using a sledge hammer to kill a fly – overkill. Because you have all authority as management don’t put you in the position to ridicule staff even when you do and get away with it, the brand suffers.
Think about it, the only two things you find in a disgruntled staff is sabotage and tendency for fraud believe it or not. Well I expect that the current management of the bank won’t be too myopic to know this.
There are lots of factors that could kill a brand but it is more dangerous when you treat staff with disrespect, disregard and exhibit a chauvinistic kind of management.
Now should the customers of Union bank be wary of the current management of the bank? I think a resounding Yes! Is the answer. Let the management be aware that we customers have even more information about the bank than they do.

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