At least 50 000 people are expected to join a banking sector national strike led by the finance union Sasbo unless Busa is granted an interdict. File Photo: IOL
JOHANNESBURG – Business Unity South Africa (Busa) on Wednesday launched a legal last-ditch attempt to halt the proposed banking industry workers’ strike on Friday, which is unnerving South African consumers despite banks reassurances.

The Gauteng South High Court will hand down judgment today at 10am.

At least 50 000 people are expected to join a banking sector national strike led by the finance union Sasbo (formerly the SA Society of Bank Officials), unless Busa is granted an interdict.

Busa is seeking to stop the protest as it argues that the trade union federation Cosatu’s section 77 notice sent to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) may not satisfied the requirements for the strike to be legally protected.

Busa said the Nedlac notice was first issued in August 2017 and thus should not be relied on in 2019.

Sasbo is planning to use this section 77 notice to lead countrywide demonstrations as negotiations have deadlocked since May.

Sasbo is calling for a moratorium on job cuts and has offered various solutions to prevent retrenchments, including up-skilling of workers and the regulation of top officials’ salaries.

Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela said yesterday that the union would appeal the court’s judgment if it did not favour the union today.

He alleged that the banks came to negotiations with a fait accompli and ignored all union suggestions to mitigate job losses in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

“What we have picked up is that the banks are not even sure themselves what does the future world of work entail. So they are more reactive then proactive,” Kokela said.

The Banking Association South Africa (Basa) said yesterday that its members would make every effort to avoid disruptions on Friday and encouraged customers to use digital services where possible.

“Members of the Banking Association South Africa are taking the necessary precautions to minimise disruption and inconvenience customers ahead of the proposed protest action,” it said.

“Banks will be operating as usual on the day. However, in case of any unavoidable disruptions at branches, bank customers should as far as possible make use of digital banking services.”

Absa head of media relations Carli Cooke said Absa would deploy business continuity and contingency plans to mitigate the impact on customers should the proposed protest action proceed.

“While we will make every effort to avoid disruption, it is possible that some services may be affected,” Cooke said. “We have also encouraged corporate clients that may be affected to consider scheduling payments, transactions and other services to earlier dates.”

The chief investment officer of Aeon Investment Management, Asief Mohamed, said job losses were inevitable in the banking industry, as the 4IR was pushing banks to be efficient in a competitive market.

“It’s inevitable, and I’m not justifying job losses, but in order for the banks to stay competitive with all the new banking entrances, banks have to become more cost-effective and efficient,” he said.

Mohamed said banks should also be transparent about the gap between executive pay and salaries for ordinary employees in order to avoid tensions.

“It’s a very valid argument, the pay ratio. The banks need to disclose the pay ratio, and also the gender pay gap. It’s important that the banks are transparent and they disclose that, the five-year history of the pay ratio and gender pay gap,” he said.

The banks index had declined by 2.51 percent at 4pm as uncertainty prevailed.