There was chaos at the head office of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) in Marina, Lagos, on Wednesday when a group of the bank’s pensioners stormed its premises to protest against what they tagged “a paltry” monthly pension they are being paid by the bank.
The protesters, under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, UBA Unit, comprising ex-employees of the bank from across the country, said the bank currently pays them N10,000 across-the-board.
The employees, who retired as senior managers, principal managers, supervisors, and sub-managers, among others, said they had spent between 12 and 22 years at the organisation before they retired.
It was gathered that the pensioners were receiving about N4,600 five years ago before the bank increased it to N10,000 each.
The bank had agreed to increase the sum by N2,000 last month after a meeting with the executive; but the offer was rejected.
The demonstration partially paralysed activities of the bank as some of the pensioners spread mats at the entrance of the bank and sat on them, while others displayed banners and placards with inscriptions, ‘If we do not build UBA, present management will have nothing to be proud of. Give us our just dues now’, and ‘In UBA Plc, one man earns N10m per month while a pensioner earns N10, 000’, among others.
Some of the protesters said the money was not enough to feed their families.
Among the protesters was a fifty-eight-year old woman, Stella Obanla, who retired from the bank’s office in Ibadan, Oyo State. She said she had to engage in street hawking to sponsor her son’s education.
Obanla said, “I joined the UBA in 1985 and was retrenched in 1997. We are agitating for improvement in our pension. We want the bank to give us our dues, including medical treatment. I was collecting N3,150 in 2002. After some consultations, they increased it to N5,000. Later, they increased it to N10,000 and that is what we have been earning for over six years now.”
Another pensioner from Gombe State, Mr. Anthony Awoniyi, reportedly lamented that it is appalling that he is still on N10,000 12 years after I retired.”
An ex-head manager, Bamidele Adedoyin, 72, said his sight became worse when he could not afford to meet up with his medical needs.
“Old age has come, I cannot do anything again. I joined the UBA in 1978 and retired in 1997. I was given N70,000 as severance package. N10,000 is nothing to write home about. I can’t take care of my health any longer. I can’t see very well.”
A former chairman of the bank’s staff union, N.O. Atiku, said the management of the bank did not factor modern realities into the pension, adding that it was supposed to be reviewed with the socio-economic realities of the country.
He said, “They know what we pay per annum for housing and what it takes to feed a man nowadays. I was retrenched as an officer level 5. I was the person who negotiated the pension scheme in 1996 and as part of our agreement, it was not supposed to be static. It has to be reviewed with the realities of today.”
The Chairman of the pension union, Chief Emmanuel Ojo, said the management had been unfair to them despite their contributions to the development of the bank. He said the demonstration was organised as the last resort after years of unfulfilled promises made by the bank.
He said, “We are here today to express our displeasure with the management of UBA Plc for treating matters of our welfare with levity. We have waited patiently for more than three years discussing a new package with the bank until June 15, 2015, when the bank offered us about N2,000 increase across-the-board, which we rejected.
“If the bank saw the need to increase the salaries of their serving employees regularly, why did they not consider their pensioners, who brought the bank to greatness and who are also living under the same bad economy? We believe the UBA pensioners should earn not less than 20 percent of what their colleagues on the job are earning; that is about N880,000 per annum on the average.”
The protesters were later invited for dialogue by the management. The meeting was still on as of 3pm when our correspondent left the bank’s premises.
A worker of the bank, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the management was able to reach an agreement with the union, adding that something would be done to meet the demands of the pensioners.
He said, “We have listened to them and resolved the issues. We have a human angle to everything we do.“
Similarly, Ojo, the union chairman, later confirmed to our correspondent on telephone that they had reached an understanding with the bank.
“We have reached an understanding, but they refused to put it into writing. We have given them till August 31 to act on it,” he said.
Indeed, the bank in a statement said it would always take the welfare of its pensioners seriously.
The statement by Mr. Charles Aigbe, Divisional Head, Marketing and Corporate Relations, UBA, read, “We have regularly engaged our pensioners and have always treated them fairly and respectably.
“The current disagreement arose from the rejection of the terms of a proposed pension review presented to them by the bank in June 2015.
“The action of today by UBA pensioners was unexpected and uncalled for.
“The pensioners have enjoyed two upward reviews in the past and the current one is about a third review.
“Following today’s action, we met and engaged, as our usual practice, with the leaders of the pensioners.
“They tabled their requests and we have promised to look at them and revert in due course. The pensioners left satisfied and peacefully.”