South Africa’s biggest financial union Sasbo says it will move ahead with its plans to institute a major banking strike on Friday (27 September).
The union – which currently has over 73,000 members – will receive additional support South Africa’s largest trade federation Cosatu as employees down tools over planned retrenchments in the banking sector.
Speaking to BusinessTech, the union’s general secretary Joe Kokela said that he expected between 30,000 to 40,000 members across the financial industry to be involved in the strike action on the day.
This will include protests across the country’s major metropoles, including some 15,000 to 20,000 protesters in Gauteng alone.
However, Kokela noted that the country’s banks were not taking the strike action lying down, and that the union had received an interdict to stop the industrial action.
“We have been speaking to the banks. They based their planned retrenchments in terms of S189 of the Labour relations act, arguing that employees were additional to operational requirements.
“However, this was not proper and they were hiding under this section as an excuse to retrench.”
Kokela added that the union would not be deterred by the planned interdict.
“In Zulu they have a word for this – ‘Asijdi’ – meaning there is no turning back now,” he said.
A number of local banks have closed a number of their branches throughout the country as a result of digitalisation, which encourages self-service, with clients using their cell phones and computers, rather than walking into a branch.
Lenders are cutting jobs as they seek ways to lower costs and contend with slow economic growth and fresh competition in the industry from branchless, digital entrants such as TymeBank and insurer Discovery.
Job cuts in the country are particularly sensitive as the unemployment rate has risen to 29%, the highest in more than a decade.
Absa, Standard Bank, and Nedbank Group have all consulted with staff about cuts in recent months.
Absa is restructuring operations across its business units, Standard Bank is closing 91 branches, while Nedbank is in talks with about 1,500 employees over job cuts or redeployments, Bloomberg reported in July.