By Bahle Gama
…as the bank finalizes COL adjustment negotiations
Following days of serious tensions between FNB management and some of its unionized employees, customers will be pleased to learn that services will be fully availed today (Friday). This is courtesy of the bank and its employees’ ability to reach a consensus on the Cost of Living (CoL) adjustment negotiations.
Before the final negotiations that were concluded on Thursday, the unionized employees’ representative, Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (SUFIAW) had served the bank with a notice of strike action that was slated for Friday.
However, FNB management through the negotiating team arbitrated in the situation and found common ground with its employees through the union and both parties agreed to a 6.5 per cent CoL adjustment.
According to Acting Executive Head of Human Capital Hlengiwe Msibi, the bank will further pay an additional merit increment of up to 2 per cent to top-performing employees as it has done in previous years.
The employees were demanding 8.5 per cent from the financial institution whilst the bank had offered a 5.85 COL adjustment that was not only improved but also within the banking sector range of 4.0 per cent – 6.0 per cent. The employees were demanding 2.5 per cent above the banking industry’s COL range which was observed to be above the current headline inflation of 4.0 per cent as announced by the Central Statistical Office (CSO).
The demand by the employees was exclusive of individual performance increases that could take top performers to 7.5 per cent. Worth noting is that in the last banking sector, FNB’s COL adjustments ranged from 4.0 per cent to 6.0 per cent.
FNB mandated the negotiation team to continue finding a path back to negotiations as it believed no matter discussed was deemed unresolvable. On Monday, Msibi also averred that there were 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 further gave assurance that despite the short-term disruption that would have been caused by the industrial action, the perspective of their team would not have changed. Msibi said major improvements were 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.
The Acting Head of Humal Capital noted that whilst such a development comes as a substantial expense, it has been designed to ensure that employees see themselves as co-investors in the exciting future being built by the bank 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. Post the negotiation, the bank said it expects that operations across all its business units, branches, and platforms will continue as normal.
“Communicated plans about transforming branches to improve customer experience are going to continue,” said Msibi. SUFIAW Secretary General (SG) Jabu Shiba said they were pleased with the consensus reached with the bank as well as the COL adjustment agreed upon. “When you go for negotiations, it is imperative that you do so with an open mind, which I believed allowed for us to conclude in such an amicable manner,” she said.
The SG said they welcomed the 6.5 per cent on the basis that there were additions made by the bank which were previously of major concern to the Union.