Ten-year-old labour dispute gets hearing date in industrial court

National Industrial Court.

Justice Rabi Gwandu of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Lagos has set aside October 24 and 25, 2018 for the hearing of the 10 years old labour dispute between nine former staffs of Sterling Bank Plc and the Bank.

Claimants in the suit marked NICN/LA/84/2012 are Mr. Adedeji Wale and 8 others.The claimants first sued the bank at the Lagos High Court in March 2008. This followed their disengagement from the bank in October 2006 and failed attempt by labour unions to settle the matter amicably.

They were angry over the alleged non-payment of redundancy, gratuity and other related entitlements to them by the bank. The case dragged on from that time till November 2011 when the Lagos High Court transferred the matter to NIC for adjudication.

Two judges of the NIC – James Agbadu Fishim and Kenneth Amadi had heard the matter before their transfers outside the Lagos jurisdiction of the court.The case suffered several prolonged adjournments, four years at the Lagos High Court and over five years now at the NIC.

The claimants claim that their employment were transferred to the defendant bank with effect from January 1, 2006 from Indo-Nigeria Merchant Bank Limited upon the completion of merger of five banks then.

In the merger arrangement, Pension contributions and gratuity entitlements as at December 31, 2005 as well as all outstanding staff loans were transferred to the defendant bank, including the years of service of the claimants with Indo-Nigeria Merchant Bank Limited.

The claimants averred that by September 29, 2006, the defendant Bank through a letter disengaged them effective October 1, 2006 alongside over 150 others.“The defendant bank failed to recognize the period of service of the claimants from the former bank where their services were transferred to it.

“This was done to avoid payment of redundancy benefit as per defendant staff policy manual. The defendant short-changed the claimants by giving what it called ‘ex-gratia payment’ without a breakdown or known basis of computation,” the claimants averred, adding that the payment of “ex-gratia” is management prerogative and has not discharged the defendant from payment of redundancy to them.

They said that “ex-gratia” has no legal meaning to their contract of employment and such cannot replace their contractual entitlements including redundancy caused by the defendant’s re-organization, repositioning and re-evaluation as stated by the management of the bank in a circular.The claimants averred that one managing director of the five affected banks, who was also disengaged was paid N30m redundancy entitlements in 2006, arguing that they deserve to be treated in similar fashion.

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NICRabi Gwandu
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