The Banking Association South Africa (Basa) says that its members are taking the necessary precautions to minimise disruption and inconvenience to customers ahead of the proposed banking industry protest action on Friday, 27 September.

In a statement on Monday, 23 September, Basa said that banks will be operating as usual on the day. “However, in case of any unavoidable disruptions at branches, banking customers should as far as possible make use of digital banking services. Banks will be carefully monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of their customers and staff.” read the statement.

The association said that Business Unity of South Africa (Busa) is also seeking to stop the protest as they are not satisfied that the requirements for the action is legally protected.
“Basa and its members recognise the rights of bank workers to engage in protest action. However, these actions need to be undertaken in terms of the law, to ensure the safety of the public, businesses and their customers, as well as the least possible disruption to the economy.

“In the event of the protest action going ahead, we expect the authorities and unions to ensure it is peaceful and guarantee the safety of customers and property.” he added.
Touching on the issue of changing times, Basa said “The global banking industry is evolving in response to economic pressures, digital innovation and, most importantly, the changing way customers use and consume financial services. Reduction of staff numbers in many traditional banking services is a worldwide phenomenon and in part because of these global changes, many in the South African banking industry are having to restructure their businesses to ensure  they  remain  sustainable and relevant to the needs of consumers,” continued the statement.

South Africa’s six largest banks in 2018 was reported to have had approximately 152,441 employees. This was a huge increase of more than 4,000 from 148,500 in 2015.
Basa said, ” With the strong growth in smaller banks and financial technology companies, the financial system in total remains a growing employer. Protest action will not help to address the realities affecting the banking industry and will further burden the economy and deter investment. The only sustainable solution is improved education and attracting higher levels of investment to drive economic growth and job creation. These require government, labour and business to work. ” said Basa.

South Africa’s biggest financial union, Sasbo announced the strike, saying employees will down tools at the end of the month in protest over planned retrenchments.

In other reports, the unions general secretary, Joe Kokela said that they want banks to consider options other than retrenchments and begin a programme to re-skill employees whose positions are at risk. “If the banks say no, the struggle continues and we will make sure we shut down the system until they come to their senses. We can even make sure replenishment of ATMs are kept to a minimum so that the country runs short of money,” said Kokela. Other trade federations have also said they will support the strike. Cosatu warned that the strike is ‘just a warm up’.

The Cosatu deputy general secretary, Solly Phetoe told reporters that all Cosatu – affiliated unions will mobilise to ensure that the Sasbo banking sector strike is successful. “This strike will be part of a build-up to the 7 October full-blown national strike,” Phetoe added. A number of banks have closed some branches throughout the country as a result of digitalisation, which encourages self-service, with clients using their cell phones and computers, rather than walking into a branch. Standard Bank was the first bank to announce the closures. In Durban, a number of branches were closed earlier in the year.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) also commented, saying the strike may have an impact on its tax systems. SARS issued a statement on Monday, 23 September saying the strike may impact transactions related to tax payments on the day.

SARS added that the processing of tax refunds may also be impacted.
“The South African Revenue Service would like to ensure that the impact of the strike on these transactions are minimised for both the taxpayer and SARS. To this end, taxpayers are encouraged to submit their payments two business days in advance and similarly, conduct any tax transactions that may result in a payment to SARS, two business days in advance.” read the statement.

SARS advised taxpayers who require further assistance to contact the contact centre on 0800 00 7277. South Africa’s financial sector is expected to come to a standstill and more than 40,000 members across the industry are expected to be involved in the action.

South Africans have been warned to withdraw as much money ahead of the strike and also ensure that their petrol tanks in vehicles are full as speed point machines will also not be working.