Liberty chief executive David Munro. 
Photo: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Discontent is brewing at listed financial services company Liberty Holdings, with employees raising fears that their jobs could be on the line if the group implements its “revised organisational design” announced in July.

A source this week told Business Report that executives had been dropping hints of impending retrenchments to their teams in frustration.

“As things stand, some employees have stopped working until they know their fate,” the source said. “Others are consulting external labour law experts to get advice on pending restructuring and possible job losses in the absence of clear and transparent communication from leadership.”

Liberty announced an organisational redesign during its interim results presentation last month, charging that the strategy would be implemented in the second half of the year.

The group said the redesign would have a strong focus on the South African insurance and asset management businesses.

In an emailed response yesterday, Liberty said it was committed to treating its employees with dignity and would ensure a transparent and fair process.

“Our intent regarding this process is to realign ourselves to improve the way we work we are unable to provide details around job implications at this stage,” it said.

The group has about 6 000 full-time employees.

Unionised

It said it was not a unionised institution.

Liberty has been on the ropes in the past few years and experienced significant leadership changes over the past year.

Thabo Dloti resigned as chief executive in May last year, following a difference of opinion with the board, and was replaced by Standard Bank executive David Munro. The group’s financial director Casper Troskie resigned in December and joined rivals Old Mutual.

Another source claimed that Liberty had allowed leaders in its departments to get away scot-free from sexual harassment allegations and complainants victimised.

A study released earlier this month by Columinate found that 30 percent of South Africa’s women have been victims of sexual harassment at work. The study further urged South African companies needed to sharpen their sexual harassment policies and procedures to better protect employees.

“Many of the victims in these prominent cases end up being bullied, victimised, which ultimately leads to their resignations,” the source said. “This is an organisation that does not openly talk about transforming the workplace in terms of gender and race.”

Liberty poured cold water over the allegations, but was unable to indicate how many sexual harassment complaints it had received, investigated and finalised. 

“We take this issue extremely seriously and reiterate that the company’s stance is to investigate every complaint brought to management and take the appropriate disciplinary action in line with company policy,” the group said.

Liberty declined 1.99 percent on the JSE yesterday to close at R107.23.

– BUSINESS REPORT