Bank union plans 'total shutdown' as industry wields massive axe over jobs

Sasbo plans to strike over two days against job losses in the private sector.
Sasbo plans to strike over two days against job losses in the private sector.
Image: Gallo Images

Finance union Sasbo has threatened a "total shutdown" of the banking industry next month if their demands for minimal retrenchments in the sector are not heeded.

Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela said the union planned to strike over two days next month against job losses in the private sector.

He said Standard Bank planned to retrench 6,000 employees, Nedbank 3,000 employees and Absa 878 employees.

However, Standard Bank poured cold water on the claim, and Nedbank told Sowetan's sister publication BusinessLIVE that it did not have plans to cut 3,000 jobs. It said after the reorganisation process at the bank, fewer than 100 employees remained unplaced.

Kokela has insisted that his figures are correct.

Sasbo said it could not continue to be an innocent bystander in seeing its members losing their jobs and contributing to high unemployment and then expect them to survive in a wilting economy. The union said there had been an increase of notices served on Sasbo to attend to retrenchment process consultations.

Kokela said talking to the banks on the issue of job losses was akin to flogging a dead horse.

“In our history, the last strike we had was in 1920, and it was not about job losses. We are looking at a total shutdown," Kokela said.

Kokela said the planned two-day strike, with the date in September still to be determined, would be held under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act.

This section gives workers the right to take part in protest action to promote or defend their socio-economic interest and be protected against dismissal and other disciplinary action.

Kokela said the union wanted the banks to consider options other than retrenchments and to re-skill employees whose positions were at risk.

He said Standard Bank knew five years ago that it wanted to reduce its branch network but started helping employees facing retrenchment a few months ago to acquire new skills.

“All that should happen is for the banks to show they have empathy and show that they are genuine. That they want to sit down and discuss how they want to save jobs," he said.

Standard Bank on Tuesday said it announced in March that it would close 91 branches as it realigned its retail and business banking model to the changing needs of customers amid rapid adoption of digital banking products and services.

This would affect 1,200 employees.

“Standard Bank refutes that it will retrench 6,000 employees. Standard Bank has made strides to ensure that impacted employees are absorbed into the other roles within the bank,” spokesperson Ross Linstrom said.

The bank said where this had not been possible, or where employees had opted not to apply for other positions within the network, it had also set aside funds to help employees acquire new skills to improve their competitiveness in the labour market, as well as entrepreneurial training.

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