Sierra Leone: Allegeg Human Rights Abuses And Exploitation of Workerschrdi Turns the Spotlight On Commercial Banks

The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has slammed local and foreign banks operating in the country for alleged human rights abuses and exploitation meted on their staff.

The organization's Chief Executive, Abdul M. Fatoma stated that findings from a research conducted by them revealed that local and foreign banks operating in the country have blacklisted over 400 workers with over 500 subjected to poor working conditions.

Among the violations documented in the research report is the practice of forcing workers into working long hours without any over-time payment.

"Many bank workers in Sierra Leone report for work at 7am and work till 11pm daily, from Monday to Friday without any consideration of their work-life balance from their employers. Cases of discrimination against female workers who get pregnant and related sexual harassment at the workplace were two key concerns for female workers in Sierra Leone that were expressed to us," Fatoma said.

He claimed that discrimination against pregnant female workers takes different forms at different stages of the employment process, citing during hiring, promotion, and dismissal, and coupled with failure to provide appropriate workplace conditions to address the needs of pregnant female workers.

According to him, most financial institutions, especially commercial banks currently lack adequate and effective investment policies to address the harmful business practices of their corporate clients and staff.

The report stated that banks are in the habit of disrespecting the employment laws, stating that it is required by law that banks are allowed to bring in three Expatriates but all of the foreign owned banks employ more than five foreigners without going through due process.

The report called for binding regulations that address human rights issues, while urging political decision makers and financial institutions to install and implement transparent policies and regulations that secure human rights.

"We believe that lack of accountability, coupled with the failure of the Central Bank and the Labor inspectorate to enforce compliance with applicable labor laws and regulations for poor working conditions in the Financial Sector is at the center of troubled industrial relations in Sierra Leone," Fatoma noted.

He added that the lack of accountability only encourages financial Institution(s) in Sierra Leone to continue to recklessly contribute to unsustainable business practices and human rights violations in the interest of turning a profit.

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