Johannesburg– South African Society of Bank Officials or Sasbo, the biggest financial union in the country, is planning a major strike on 27th September (Friday). With a strength of 73000 members in the organisation, this is going to be the biggest largest industrial action of the country in a hundred years.
The strike is being called as an act of protest over the planned retrenchments in the banking sector. The union wants the banks to consider other options like offering the right training to the necessary number of employees in order to re-skill them.
Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela said,’’ “If the banks say no, the struggle continues and we will make sure we shut down the system until they come to their senses.” He expects around 30,000 to 40,000 members across the financial sector to participate in the strike.
The strike will also receive support from South Africa’s largest trade federation Cosatu. “All Cosatu-affiliated unions will mobilise to ensure that the Sasbo banking sector strike on 27 September is successful,” said Cosatu Deputy General-Secretary Solly Phetoe. “This strike will be part of a build-up to the 7 October full-blown national strike.”
Kokela added that,” “We can even make sure replenishment of ATMs are kept to a minimum so that the country runs short of money.” He also mentioned that the members of the organisation, who constitute around 70% of the entire banking sector staff, will teach the banks “a costly lesson”.
Digitalisation in various bank branches has encouraged self-service and more number of clients are using mobile phones and computers for conducting banking transactions. Banks have chosen cutting jobs and closing multiple branches as ways to lower costs and combat the slow economic growth.
They are also facing challenges from the new digital competitors like TymeBank, Discovery and Bank Zero, who offer branchless operations. With the present rate of unemployment rising to a high figure of 29%, the job redundancies have become a sensitive topic for discussion.
Absa is restructuring its business units, Standard Bank is shutting down 91 branches and Nedbank is staging discussions with almost 1500 employees over job cuts or redeployment. All the three groups have been engaged in discussion with Sasbo in the past months regarding the job scenario.
Kokela believes that the main reason behind the retrenchments is corporate greed. “The banks are not co-operating, they don’t want to listen to what we have to say. By shutting down the economy, we want them to come back to their senses,” he said. “We want to show that without these workers they are nothing. We are trying to call out their arrogance.”
In a response, Absa stated that it has business continuity and contingency plans in place that would be deployed as needed. A Standard Bank spokesperson said that customers will be kept informed in case of any change or disruption to their banking activities.