Sasbo vows complete blackout of digital banking

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Finance union, the South African Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo), has vowed to shut all digital banking platforms on Friday.

Sasbo, South Africa’s largest financial union, which is backed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, says there will be a complete blackout of most transactional services, including cash withdrawals.

The banking sector, facing the potentially crippling protest, earlier this week said it had taken contingency measures to minimise interruption of services and urged customers to use digital platforms on the day.

However, Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela told ITWeb in an interview: “Whatever the banks say, it’s their right; I can only speak on behalf of Sasbo and say the digital platforms will be affected. Those services are all controlled by human beings to be able to perform a function. Our argument is that these services will be affected on Friday.”

The union, which has been preparing for the strike for weeks, has expressed concerns about the loss of jobs in the banking sector, as well as the future of the industry in light of digitisation.

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 immediate plans to reconfigure its branch infrastructure, resulting in 1 200 workers losing their jobs.

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

Nedbank in August said it had also been in consultations with the unions, noting fewer of its people would be affected.

The potential impact of Friday’s Sasbo strike worries many customers, businesses and revenue authorities.

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) yesterday issued a statement in a last-ditch effort to avert the strike, saying: “SARS will work with all role-players to avert any disruption to the country’s financial system.”

It urged “all participants…to ensure there is minimal disruption to SARS services”.

Further, SARS told taxpayers and traders that “in the unlikely event of the protest action going ahead as communicated by the banking union, contingency plans are in place to mitigate any negative impact of such protest action”.

However, Kokela says: “SARS can do whatever it wants; it’s a free country. We had a strike at SARS a few weeks ago and they couldn’t stop us, how will they stop this one? As Sasbo, we are going ahead with the strike.”

Business Unity South Africa today approached the courts on behalf of the banks, seeking to interdict the strike. At the time of publishing, both parties were still awaiting the court’s decision.

Sasbo says the strike is strictly a one-day protest and the union doesn’t want customers to be affected beyond the day.

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