‘FNB fired me for being transgender’
DURBAN - A GROUP of former FNB employees who claim to have been unfairly dismissed have come forward to accuse the lender of homophobia, racism and bullying.
Several black women who claim to have suffered humiliation and unfair treatment by one of the country’s largest financial institutions spoke to the Daily News on Monday when revelations of alleged discrimination by ABSA and FNB against black-owned businesses and other South Africans who have found their banking services terminated or in the process of being shutdown.
In a closed series of interviews in Joburg, the women claimed that they were subjected to several instances of abuse by some senior FNB managers, including the bank's operational manager, Ronald Smith.
Despite the matter being escalated to the institution's executives and the head of human resources, Dipuo Nkele, no action was taken against the alleged perpetrators.
Grace Isaacs, a former systems administrator at the bank, and another woman, who asked not to be named, said they were allegedly dismissed for being pregnant.
“I had to forcefully settle on a resignation with no compensation as the child was born prematurely and I had just given birth and wanted a career and not to be blacklisted,” Isaacs alleged.
Busisiwe Dube, a senior customer service agent, also alleged that she was unfairly shown the door.
“I was hurt by the bank. I went to report the matter to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and FNB did not pitch. Now we are headed to arbitration at the CCMA, set down for May 20,” said Dube.
Queensly Gcingca, a senior learning co-ordinator, claims she was fired for being a transgender woman. She alleged that she was harassed by management and was constantly made fun of because of her sexuality.
“Before I was dismissed I was working for FNB as a learning co-ordinator for four years. Before that I was with the bank for seven years. I had the worst two years of my life at the bank. I was not accepted by FNB for being transgender,” alleged Gcingca.
Mariza Bernkia, a former senior team leader, claimed that she was also fired despite having no previous warning. Prior to being fired, she had made a grievance report against Smith, who had submitted her performance review ratings without her signature and consent.
Bernkia said she also lodged grievances about the way her team and staff members were treated. “These team members were being targeted and victimised by the operational manager,” she said.
FNB denied all the allegations, stating that all its internal disciplinary processes were applied in accordance with the relevant laws. Smith did not respond to questions sent via FNB.
“The bank further confirms that every case of alleged misconduct is investigated extensively and rigorously. FNB has a zero tolerance for discrimination against anyone and on any of the grounds contained in the Constitution. To protect the rights of FNB and the individuals concerned, the bank cannot provide any specific information on former employees,” said spokesperson Nadiah Maharaj.
Industry expert and popular financial consultant and investigator Emerald van Zyl confirmed that his company had received requests from the bank’s employees to intervene.
“I am in a process to have the bank account for its racial discrimination against the workers. My life is continuously under threat from those who don’t want the bank to account,” he said.
Van Zyl told the Daily News that, due to constant threats, he had to move his offices to an address known only by him and his family.
Former government adviser and employment relations researcher Bheki Ka Soko lashed out at South Africa’s banks for their refusal to transform.
He said he was not surprised that black employees in banks allegedly faced the same discrimination as other black people in the country.
Ka Soko alleged that the banking sector had not transformed 27 years after the attainment of democracy and accused them of instigating “financial apartheid”.
“Black people still carry the financial stigmatisation of the apartheid epoch. The banking sector perpetuates social stratification of people by making certain places in the country as areas for the poor working class,” said Ka Soko.