The Oxford English Learners Dictionary defines casualization as the practice of employing temporary workers instead of permanent employees, in order to save costs. For this category of workers, there are terms and conditions for working in a workplace that cannot be reduced into a valid legal contract between an employer and an employee. In recent years, the policy of casualization of workers has been in practice in Nigeria and it cuts across the public and private sectors; this is a trend that has come to stay in the labour market.
For the banking industry, banks are leveraging on casual employees for a lot of their operations. A casual worker in a bank is one who works there but is not seen as an employee of the company. Instead, he is employed for a fixed period of time on the bank’s payroll. These employees usually work through an agreement of employment with a third party company which is otherwise known as ‘outsourcing’.
A source in one of the banks told this reporter that most of the outsourcing companies recruiting for banks are allegedly owned by bank executives. Rasheed(Not real name) has always dreamt of being a banker right from childhood. His joy knew no bounds when he got a job with Access Bank as a Teller. The graduate of Economics from the University of Lagos, said he had high hopes to pursue a career in banking. “Although I succeeded in being employed in the bank, my employment is based on a contract for 2 years; with hopes that it will be renewed at the end of the second year. Banks want the best hands at the lowest cost and the staff welfare is very poor.”
New National Star gathered that, like Rasheed, a lot of people working in top banks in the country are casual workers, from bank tellers, marketers, customer representatives to loan officers. In a bid to cut down operational costs, banks have resorted to employing contract workers for permanent positions to spend less on salaries, health maintenance allowances, bonus and other packages. Funmi Ogunremi(not real name), an employee also with Access Bank, said, “working in the bank as a casual worker is a very challenging job, you are not entitled to any benefits and you can be disengaged anytime. You are not promoted no matter how long you have worked with the bank. “I have been working since 2017 as a customer service officer after I finished my National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) without annual leave benefits or even getting my employment converted to permanent position.
I was employed alongside other people and the promise about regularising our employment in two years has not been fulfilled. It is so.” she lamented “I was once employed as a casual worker in Union Bank. I know how it feels, it is pure exploitation and nothing else. I resumed work after two years of being jobless. My first week on the job opened my eyes to the real definition of slavery. People work like crazy, targets have to be met, and there’s really no closing time as some work still needed to be done even from home. “Even the casual workers that I met there have been working for close to two years and they are still where they are. They, banks, are still promising them an upgrade till today, although some have left for better opportunities.”
Mr Agbenu Samuel, a respondent said. Another employee of Fidelity Bank Nigeria, David Arome(not real name), a casual worker with the bank for six years, said he had given up hope of being made a permanent employee.
“Banks no longer employ tellers, customer service employees but casual workers from some outsourcing companies. The salary structure is like comparing heaven and earth. You work under poor employment conditions with high hopes that you will be converted to a permanent employee on the long run, but you will be shocked that you will remain on that contract until your village people call you back home. “Nobody likes it, they want to quit but cannot because of the fear of the unknown, what is the guarantee of getting a job outside the labour market,” he added.
Some of the casual bank employees who spoke with this newspaper in the marketing department of the banks lamented the outrageous targets given to them to retain their contracts. For Florence Ada(not real name), she said, “I worked as a loan officer with First City Monument Bank(FCMB) for three years.
During that time, I was a casual employee and my salary was N57,000.. “The problem of casual workers in banks has always been the fact that they are over-laboured. They usually serve as tellers and especially marketers then, sometimes customer service employees; they are given ridiculous targets.
They are not entitled to any retirement benefits from the banks despite working regularly like permanent employees. “ Emmanuel Abiodun(not real name) who worked with First Bank in 2018 told this reporter that contract employees constituted over 70 percent of the entire workforce in Nigerian banks. “ A lot of marketers you see in the banks and on the roads are casual employees.
I was in the sales department and it was hell. We had targets to meet at the end of every month. I worked as BBG sales personnel, meaning I was only meant to open business accounts and to book loans for businesses. “Imagine as a marketer, my basic salary then was Forty-Thousand Naira for all the work we were made to do yet our employment was not guaranteed because when you don’t meet targets, you are relieved of your job without any form of compensation.”
He went on to say that for account opening alone, his target in a month was N6 million and the least amount for opening a business account then was N10000. He said he was advised not to tell prospective clients to open the accounts with N10000 as that would not help in meeting his targets; so, whenever he went outside engaging people, he would beg them to open accounts N20000 upwards and that getting customers was a big problem.
“Our challenge basically was transportation as there was no allowance covering going out to market the bank’s products. Regarding the contract, it is for as long as you keep on meeting targets, you will continue to be a part of the family,” he stressed.
Mr. Julius Isiaka, Esq., a human rights activist said, “workers deserve a sense of security in their workplace, so employers of casual workers should treat them like humans, offer them the benefit of rights at work and allow them to work with nobility. Casual employees should not be subjected to certain conditions that are not applicable to regular fulltime employees of the banks.“
“They work as hard as permanent workers and are treated inferior in terms of conditions of service which undermines human resource management. I believe when workers are treated well, it brings out the best work attitude and results in productivity.
I understand the condition of the labour market and profit maximization goal of the banks but it affects the commitment of workers and overall productivity.” Efforts to reach Comrade Wabba Ayuba, the National President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) proved abortive as this reporter was told by his office that he was on leave. He did not pick his calls either. However, Comrade Benson Upah, Head of Department Information, NLC when contacted said, “Casualization is not acceptable to the labour congress because casualization is equivalent to slave labour. Quite often, workers are not protected from employers, they are not allowed to form unions; there is no negotiated wage or wages, there is no health insurance.
This is the reason why congress took it upon itself to have a policy on casualization. “So congress is frontally against casualization of workers and has consistently mobilized against casualization of the workers. We have carried out rallies, sensitization campaigns against casual work in the country. We have reported those who violated this to the ministry of labour but it is a battle that we are still fighting and it is our hope that there will be an end to casualization.”
“We have heard some cases from the banks, I recall the case of an Ecobank employee who came here among others and we dealt with those situations. We are not happy with it, we relate with the banks and ministry of labour and agencies involved.
It is slave labour, it is against the body of Labour law,” he added. Efforts to also reach the spokesman for the Central Bank of Nigeria, the regulator of the industry, to comment on the issue over the weekend was abortive.