Financial

Sasbo wants moratorium on bank retrenchments

Read time 2min 40sec

Finance union Sasbo says it is in support of digitalisation in the sector but the banks have to implement programmes that will prime employees for the future.

Sasbo, which is preparing for the banking sector strike at the end of the month, says it is willing to work with employers in the sector to train the current workforce for future jobs as digitalisation is inevitable.

The banking union, which previously expressed concerns about the future of the industry in light of digitalisation, says the change also brings about new opportunities for employees who face an uncertain future.

Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela says: “We are not against digitalisation; it is how they have gone about it. The banks knew all along that digitalisation was coming and none of the banks came forward and gave their people skills for the future. The banks are feeling the pressure from the fintechs and are now rushing to implement digitalisation programmes.

“It’s corporate greed. If they were serious about saving banks, they would start by cutting high salaries. We are trying to compel the banks to come back to the negotiating table.”

Kokela says the one-day industrial action, scheduled for 27 September, will send a message to the banks to halt retrenchments that have become commonplace in the sector.

Earlier this year, Africa’s biggest lender by assets, Standard Bank, announced plans to reconfigure its branch infrastructure, which resulted in 1 200 people losing their jobs.

The bank closed 104 branches; 49 in Gauteng, with a further 11 and 10 in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, respectively.

“Standard Bank said it is closing 91 branches based on customer behaviour but they ended up closing more in the so-called poor areas with LSM of between one and four. It wasn’t about customer behaviour, it was about maximising profits,” Kokela tells ITWeb.

“As it stands now, workers are impacted because bank employees don’t know if they will have jobs tomorrow.”

In March, Absa Group announced it would restructure its South African retail and business banking unit within months, which would affect 870 jobs.

Sasbo was notified of the potential impact of the move. Close to15 retail-banking executives exited their positions at the bank in June.

Discussions between Absa and the union have been ongoing since then.

Nedbank, which announced its interim results last month, said it had also been in consultations with the unions, adding that fewer people would be affected.

The bank said it was making strides to ensure impacted employees were absorbed into other roles. Nedbank COO Mfundo Nkuhlu said 1 400 of those staff will be accommodated in a new business area.

However, Kokela says the strike is on: “We are converging in front of Cosatu House, then will proceed to Bank City to FNB. Standard Bank is just around the corner, so is Nedbank. The guys [bank representatives] will come and collect their memorandum.”

“We want a moratorium; retrenchments have to stop.”

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