Johannesburg – The bank strike crashed at the 11th hour on Thursday but Cosatu and its affiliate, the SA Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo), have vowed to regroup for a fight to stop the job loss bloodbath in the industry.
The labour union has appealed to their members to respect the Labour Court judgment interdicting their planned national shutdown, but promised to organise an even bigger protest.
Business Unity SA (Busa) succeeded in its bid to halt the protest action that was scheduled for today.
But Cosatu is to re-submit its application for a national shutdown over job losses in the financial services sector and the country’s ongoing economic crisis to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
It described the court order as a “pyrrhic victory for Busa, which will only serve to delay the inevitable”, and energise it to organise a much bigger shutdown of the financial sector.
Labour Court Judge Hilary Rabkin- Naicker directed Cosatu to inform its affiliates, including Sasbo, and their members that the planned protest was unlawful and in breach of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which they had failed to comply with.
“Cosatu and Sasbo are hereby interdicted and restrained from proceeding with, encouraging or enticing employees to engage in the intended protest action or any conduct in contemplation or in furtherance thereof, unless and until such time where they have complied with section 77 of the LRA,” reads Judge Rabkin-Naicker’s order.
The judge warned that the protest action did not enjoy the protections afforded by section 67 of the LRA.
Cosatu said it totally disagreed with the court’s decision but respects the judiciary. “We will abide by the decision while launching an urgent appeal against this ruling,” the federation said.
It called on all its members and workers who were ready to go on strike today to respect the court’s decision and report for work, but remain battle-ready for the battle ahead.
According to Cosatu, the battle has only been postponed and not cancelled, but insisted that it had followed all the necessary processes and that Nedlac had issued the certificate to strike.
Cosatu is unhappy that Nedlac, despite being cited as the third respondent, had failed to defend its decision to give the shutdown the green light.
It warned that if Nedlac continued to fail the workers there will be a proliferation of unsanctioned strikes.
Cosatu also expressed its displeasure at the government’s silence and indifference in the face of a jobs’ bloodbath.
Kaizer Moyane, Busa’s Nedlac convener, said he was pleased that the judge pointed Cosatu and Sasbo in the right direction, but did not see the order as a victory because there are still issues needing to be ironed out.
“We have always said that disruption to the economy through any form of industrial action is not what the country needs right now. We are happy that the judge has put an end to this intended protest action, which we have always said was non-compliant in any event,” Moyane said.
has been battling retrenchments in the country’s major banks, with 3 000 jobs under threat at Nedbank and Standard Bank expected to shed 1 800, while at Absa over 800 employees will be unemployed.
Earlier this year, Standard Bank announced that it would close 91 of its branches, 49 of which are in Gauteng. Sasbo has warned that if financial sector employees fail to take a stand by the end of the year, 10 000 jobs could be lost.
The union said it has been trying to resolve the problem without resorting to industrial action, but even after a facilitator was appointed by the CCMA no solution could be reached.
The Banking Association SA (Basa) said the country’s six largest banks had 152 441 employees in 2018, an increase of more than 4 000 from 148 500 in 2015, and it was confident that given the strong growth in smaller banks and financial technology companies the financial system in total remains a growing employer.