What to expect from South Africa’s major banking strike

 ·23 Sep 2019

South Africa’s largest financial union Sasbo will embark on a major banking strike on Friday (27 September).

In an interview with BusinessTech, the union’s general secretary Joe Kokela said that employees from all of the country’s major banks and other financial institutions will be protesting over planned retrenchments in the banking sector, and calling for a moratorium on job losses.

He added that the country’s banking sector should also make it clear how it plans to deal with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), and what it is doing to help up-skill workers.

Many local banks have closed a number of their branches as a result of digitalisation, which encourages self-service, with clients using their mobile phones and computers, rather than walking into a branch.

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.

Affected areas

Kokela said that he expects between 30,000 to 40,000 members across the financial industry to be involved in the strike action on the day.

The protest action has also received additional support from South Africa’s largest trade federation Cosatu, which may see the numbers swell.

According to Sasbo’s website, five major marches are planned throughout the country in Johannesburg, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

While some routes are still being finalised, the union told EWN that its members in Gauteng will march from Cosatu headquarters in Braamfontein to Bank City in the Johannesburg CBD.

This march is expected to be made up of some 15,000 to 20,000 protesters alone.

Banks are preparing

While the strike threatens to bring the country’s banking sector to a standstill, South Africa’s biggest banks say that they are preparing for the strike action.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom told BusinessDay that customers would be kept informed should there be any change or disruption to their banking activity.

“Standard Bank provides its clients with multiple channels through which they can conduct their banking activities,” he said.

“These include the mobile app, USSD (internet banking, unstructured supplementary services data), ATMs, branches as well as the ability to transact at retail chains like Spar, Checkers and Pick n Pay.”

Absa and Nedbank have also indicated that they are aware of the impending strike action and are in talks with the union regarding its impact.

Read: Massive strike in South Africa’s banking sector is moving ahead

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