Trade union federation Cosatu says the decision by Standard Bank to close 91 of its branches and retrench more than 1,000 employees countrywide has reinforced its call for the Labour Relations Act to be amended to make it impossible to lay off employees easily.
Last week, Standard Bank, the biggest lender in Africa by assets, said it plans to close offices and retrench about 1,200 staff by the end of June.
The move was necessitated by the need to digitise its commercial and business bank.
This came not long after the bank’s shareholders were handsomely rewarded after a 5% increase to R12.7 billion in headline earnings for the six months to June 2018.
An interim dividend of 430c a share was declared, an increase of 8% compared to 2017.
The profits were attributed to its external operations, making up a footprint in 20 countries on the continent.
It is feared the decision to close offices and retrench staff could trigger a domino effect, with other banks following suit as banking is shifting to internet and mobile banking, which has rendered some staff redundant.
Yesterday, the labour federation’s spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, condemned the bank’s decision.
“We reiterated our position that we need to amend the Labour Relations Act that allows this to be possible,” Pamla said.
The EFF also entered the fray and condemned Standard Bank’s move, describing it as “misguided and unethical”. It said it was the second time in a week that the “banking cartel” was exposed, referring to them as a “blood-sucking money-hungry industry” that was only accountable to its shareholders.
The EFF attributed this to the exposé that indicated that FNB had deliberately overcharged its black clients over the years for apparently being riskier.
The matter, exposed by financial investigator Emerald van Zyl, is before the Equality Court and being investigated by the SA Human Rights Commission.
EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “From overcharging black clients to cutting jobs, the South African banking industry continues to show its colours and its unabated willingness to place profit over people.”
According to Ndlozi, as the unemployment rate is sitting at an expanded rate of 37% as per the latest quarterly survey, the country cannot afford to lose jobs.
“SA’s banking cartel has never and will never care about South African people,” he said. “Standard Bank’s actions are a clear indication of how incompetent government is … When the EFF takes over government in May, we will place a moratorium on all retrenchments, even by the private sector.”