By Bahle Gama
Despite being offered an improved offer of 5.85 per cent by the bank’s management, FNB employees will be engaging in an Industrial strike from Friday, October 20.
Observably, not only has the 5.85 Cost of Living (CoL) adjustment been improved, but it is also within the banking industry range of 4.0 per cent – 6.0 per cent compared to the 8.5 per cent demanded by the financial institution’s workers. What the workers are looking for is 2.5 per cent above the banking industry’s CoL range and is also 46 per cent above the current headline inflation of 4.0 per cent as announced by the Central Statistical Office (CSO).
In a statement, FNB’s acting Executive Head of Human Capital Hlengiwe Msibi notified the bank’s customers that the bank has received a strike notice from the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (SUFIAW) representing some of its employees.
She said the industrial action slated for October 20 is because of an unresolved issue relating to the CoL salary adjustment for the year. Msibi reiterated that the Union is demanding 8.5 per cent against an improved management offer of 5.8 per cent “before individual performance increases that could take top performers to 7.5 per cent.”
The acting head of Human Capital said: “Therefore, there are no reasonable grounds to support any proposal that is out of the market and risks unwarranted consequential inflationary impact on the cost of some of the services offered by the bank.”
She went on to say that should any matters outside CoL be raised, these will be addressed through well-defined processes that will respect the interests of all stakeholders. Msibi also stated that the bank has therefore mandated the negotiation team to continue finding a path back to negotiations as no matter discussed so far deemed unresolvable.
FNB said despite this short-term disruption, the perspective of their team will not change.
Msibi said major improvements are planned over the next months to demonstrate this investment intent, including having employees as shareholders in the business through an employee trust that is being registered.
Whilst this development comes as a substantial expense, it has been designed to ensure that employees see themselves as co-investors in the exciting future it is building for all stakeholders, including its customers. “Following the current impasse, management will be announcing long-planned changes to our high-traffic outlets with a primary focus on branches.
These changes will prioritize moving a substantial part of the customer traffic out of branches to centralized areas where the processing of our customer requests will be quicker,” she said. She clarified that most of these changes will be permanent, and branches will be repositioned over time to become the customer experience centers and customers should now be following the significant gains made in the bank’s digital footprint.
Msibi said the bank does not expect any of its corporate and commercial customers to be materially impacted and most of its retail have already adopted self-service capabilities. Most of FNB’s client categories report over 80 per cent of subscriptions to digital platforms, except one category which is 50 per cent.
She said that whilst everything is being done to address matters raised expeditiously, the bank will ensure that customers’ ability to receive funds, make payments, and apply for loans is not impeded.
“Specific communications on changes to business operations shall follow,” she added.
In a brief interview, SUFIAW Secretary General Jabu Shiba said the Industrial Action will continue until both parties reach an amicable decision which is for the betterment of the employees. She said the ballot had been cast and the votes spoke for themselves in the employees’ favour.
Shiba said FNB employees are subjected to conditions not known to many that do not happen in the other banks in the country, including that they must pay bank charges. “Across all banks, they are the only ones who get to experience such, and many other deductions are made which are known to be experienced by customers, yet they should be benefitting and not suffering in this aspect as a staff,” she said.
She said FNB is profitable and can carry any demand made by its employees, therefore the demand made on behalf of the employees is reasonable and should cater for their living costs post the deductions being made by the Bank.
“They need to survive too because what the bank is taking from them is a lot and they are left with close to nothing at month end,” she said.