Last minute push to stop South Africa’s major banking strike

 ·25 Sep 2019

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) will head to court today (25 September) in an effort to block a major banking strike on Friday, 27 September.

The strike is being led by South Africa’s largest financial union, Sasbo, with the mass action also being supported by trade federation Cosatu.

According to Busa, Cosatu’s notice sent to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) – under which Sasbo is planning to act – may not have satisfied the requirements for the action to be legally protected.

The Nedlac notice was first issued in August 2017 and should not be relied on in 2019, it said.

However, Sasbo has indicated that it is too late to stop the strike action now with over 40,000 members expected to partake in the mass action on the day.

In an interview with BusinessTech, the union’s general secretary Joe Kokela said that the union would not be deterred by the planned interdict.

“In Zulu they have a word for this – ‘Asijiki’ – meaning there is no turning back now,” he said.

Strike within the law

The Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) – a body which represents the country’s major banks – said that its members recognise the rights of bank workers to engage in protest action.

“However, these actions need to be undertaken in terms of the law, to ensure the safety of the publicbusinesses and their customers, as well as the least possible disruption to the economy,” it said. 

“In the event of the protest action going ahead, we expect the authorities and unions to ensure it is peaceful and guarantee the safety of customers and property.”

Basa said that the country’s banks are ‘painfully aware’ of the high rate of unemployment in the country.

“They have been negotiating with staff and their representatives, in good faith, to minimise job losses,” it said. 

“Where necessary and possible, they managtheir staff numbers through natural attrition and by providing training and new opportunities to affected employees.

“Retrenchment is a last resort. Basa members who are restructuring their businesses, have indicated that a few hundred employees are at risk of retrenchment, despite the efforts of redeployment and re-skilling. There are no final figures yet, as negotiations are still underway.”

Read: South Africa’s banking strike – what you need to know according to the banks

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