18 August 2017

Burundi: Ecobank Employees Denounce Unfair Dismissal

At least 70 employees of Ecobank Burundi have been dismissed due to poor economic performance. They say that the dismissal process contains many irregularities.

Ecobank has dismissed 70 employees for economic reasons in accordance with the law, says Victor Noumoué, the Chief Executive Officer of Ecobank Burundi. He says that the dismissals are in line with the labour law, which allows for dismissals of two kinds: the performance of the company and the reorganization of its work.

Noumoué says that the dismissal of Ecobank employees is due to the restructuring operation of Ecobank's business system, which involved digitising services to strengthen financial inclusion. "The restructuring has resulted in the reduction of a number of agencies and employees", says Noumoué. Out of 11 agencies, three are still operating in Burundi and 70 employees lay out of office.

However, the former employees say that the process contained various irregularities. "We didn't receive our final accounts, certificates of services and promised benefits. We have also been wrongfully dismissed", says Mathias Manirakiza, who has 15 years of experience into the Bank. He also says that they don't know the selection criteria for who to sack. For this, they have written a formal letter to the Ecobank CEO to denounce the unfair dismissal of 8 August.

The Ecobank CEO says that selection criteria were agreed with the staff after seven meetings in compliance with the labor law, including age, academic level, family responsibilities, seniority and performance. Some dismissed Ecobank employees deny the consultative meetings.

"For a long time, the Ecobank officials refused to give more details about the dismissal", says Epimaque Nteturuye, representative of the Ecobank dismissed employees. He also believes that Ecobank didn't work in accordance with the Burundi labor law.

According to the Burundi Labor Code article 61, a dismissal must be based on a real reason, otherwise it is considered illegal. In particular, employers must provide valid evidence for reasons of dismissal, including dishonesty, the worker's inability to work, a serious breach of discipline, professional incompetence, repeated and unjustified absenteeism, or reduction in the number of employees. The dismissed employees say that the Ecobank motives to dismiss them do not match the law. "There are no financial failure reasons. Ecobank only wants to grant a small amount of indemnities", says Nteturuye.

The Ecobank CEO says that the Ecobank will offer the dismissed personnel higher levels of compensation than the law requires. "Some will receive compensation of up to 12 months' salary, repayment of credit at a reduced rate of 4% against 18%, twelve months suspension before having another job, a one-year extension of the credit payment deadlines, and the possibility for former Ecobank employees to convert back into banking agents", said Ecobank CEO

For having the additional allowances scheduled by law, the bank requires a signature of landfill. The dismissed employees must sign a memorandum of understanding; otherwise they won't receive their allowances.

For those who did not sign the memorandum, the bank put in front of them two options. Either the employee signs the protocol and receives additional benefits not provided for by law or they accept the legal minimum.

On 14 August, the dismissed employees staged a sit-in front of Ecobank headquarters in Bujumbura to denounce the irregularities. Ecobank operates in 33 African countries including Burundi.


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