SA bank employees to embark on national strike

Joe Kokela
Members of South African Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo) — the country’s biggest financial union — on Monday said they would embark on a national strike on Friday, against job losses in the sector.

Sasbo secretary-general Joe Kokela said the strike action comes as employers close branches across the country due to digitisation, where clients are encouraged to use mobile banking instead of visiting their local branch. The union also demanded answers from banks as to how they planned to deal with the imminent fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

“We reiterate that Sasbo is principally and fundamentally opposed to job losses and retrenchments. We remain concerned about the high levels of unemployment, the state of our economy, the current and future impact of the 4IR, the direct and indirect societal implications, amongst others, we cannot afford for even one job to be lost,” said Kokela.

“We have the support of [Congress of SA Trade Unions] Cosatu and this will be a protected strike under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act, so no participant will be dismissed or disciplined. There is also a possibility of more of Cosatu’s unions joining in solidarity.”

The Cosatu-affiliated union is planning five marches throughout the country in Johannesburg, Durban. Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

The country’s big four banks, Nedbank, Standard Bank, FNB and ABSA last year began downsizing and have closed some branches and merged others to align banking services. Standard Bank closed 104 branches, affecting more than 1000 jobs. Nedbank, FNB and Absa trimmed branches, with ABSA reducing branches from 885 in 2011 to 698 in this year’s first quarter.

Only Capitec Bank, which has registered a surge in profits, has increased its national footprint.