For alleged wrongful termination of appointment earlier this year, 116 former employees of United Bank for Africa, UBA, Plc, have approached the Lagos Division of the National Industrial Court, to award a cost of N2.015 billion against the bank for its action.
Apart from asking the court to declare that UBA Plc constructively and wrongfully terminated their employment, the former bankers are also requesting the court to declare that the personal loans given to them by UBA Plc between August and December, 2019 was unconscionable, oppressive and against all known tenets of corporate decency.
Asking for an order of the court cancelling the loans or alternatively, ordering UBA Plc to apply insurance proceeds to the payment of the outstanding loans and updating their terminal benefits accordingly, the former workers of the bank also to want the court to compel the bank to pay their salaries from the date of the ‘constructive’ dismissal to the date of judgment.
They are also praying the court to award the sum of N2 billion against UBA, for breach of contract and wrongful termination of employment and another order mandating the UBA to remit the 2.5 per cent NHF deductions from their salaries to the fund or in the alternative, an order of the court compelling UBA to credit their accounts with the deductions made from their salaries as NHF contribution with interest at the rate of 25 per cent.
Other reliefs sought by the former employees of the UBA include: an order mandating UBA Plc, to provide satisfactory references when requested without reference alleged non-performance and outstanding loans; an award of N10 million damages to each of them against UBA Plc, for alleged defamation of character and N50 million, been cost of action.
In a statement of material fact, filed filed before the court by their lawyer, Mr. Elvis E. Asia, the plaintiffs claimed that they were staff of UBA Plc until they were constructively dismissed on January 3, 2020 along with many others.
They averred that between January 3 and 6 2020, UBA Plc invited them to meetings at their various branches and asked them to resign immediately, a condition which they claimed the bank said wa precedent to being paid terminal benefits.
They added that to their chagrin, after writing the resignation letters, they discovered that they were already exited from the bank, before they were asked to resign, as they were denied access to the bank’s portal from the end of January 3, 2020 and the exit letters from the bank was received from January 14, 2020 but backdated to January 3, 2020.
Further averring that the bank had perfected the mass sack before surreptitiously compelling them to resign in order to deny many of them their terminal benefits through loans availed them few weeks before the sack, the former staff added that by the terms of the loan, repayment was insured in the event of involuntary loss of job, insisting that the desperation to get the claimants to resign was a deliberate ploy by UBA to deny them the benefit of the insurance and their benefits.
The plaintiffs also told the court that they were paid meagre benefits and were debited with the outstanding loans, which ought to have been taken care of by insurance, being that their employment was not brought to an end voluntarily.
They also claimed that during the course of their employment, they were subjected to discriminatory and unfair labour practices by the defendant; adding that after their constructively dismissal, UBA Plc admitted that they and other staff that were sacked were retrenched, claiming that they were ‘toxic imputers’ and ‘disconnected individuals’.
The claimants also said that they were never at any time given any query for non-performance or for being toxic imputers or disconnected individuals, adding that the bank made the claim to lower their estimation in the eyes of right-thinking members of society.
They further claimed that between January 3 and 6, they were locked in meeting rooms at their various branches, till about 10:30 and 11:00 pm and were only released after being compelled to resign against their will.
They further claimed that after the meeting, resignation letters were forwarded to them and they received exit letters from UBA Plc between January 14 and March 2, 2020, and the exit letters erroneously implied that they voluntarily left the services of the bank and were backdated to January 3, 2020 before the resignation letters.
They also claimed that manner in which they were forced to write resignation letters, which was handwritten, many of them did not have copies of the letter after giving it to the bank.
On alleged unconscionable and oppressive loan, the claimants averred that prior to their unjust, wrongful and unceremonious ouster from the bank, UBA Plc surreptitiously made them to accept unconscionable and oppressive loans with interest at the rate of 18 per cent and 1.5 per cent for insurance, adding that the loans were tactfully foisted on them for two reasons.
The first reasons, according to the claimants was that UBA Plc wanted to meet up with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN’s Loan to Deposit Ratio. And secondly, it became apparent after they were forced out that it was a ploy by the UBA Plc to take back what would be due to them as terminal benefits.
UBA Plc is yet to file any processes against the claimants’ suit and no date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.