Strike looms as bankers rebuff salary demands

THE Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (Baz) has refused to give in to salary demands by bank employees, saying the workers could go ahead with the industrial action planned for next week because their demands were unsustainable.

Baz president John Mushayavanhu on Tuesday downplayed the planned strike by the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (Zibawu) despite fears of US$3 million losses in daily deposits and a paralysis of the economy.
Zibawu, a union representing 5 000 employees in the banking sector, last week gave 14 days notice to strike to Baz over an 80% salary increment deadlock. The 14-day notice, which excludes Sundays, lapses on September 9.
“As employers we feel that the salaries that we are offering our employees are at par with regional salaries,” Mushayavanhu told businessdigest. “They can go ahead with the strike because no economy with a year-on-year inflation rate of 4,1% can sustain an 80% salary increment. In fact most banks are currently overstaffed, so this strike could have minimal impact.”
He said most banks were paying a minimum monthly salary of US$490 that includes transport and housing allowances, contrary to Zibawu claims that the lowest paid employee was earning US$273.
Zibawu president, Peter Mutasa, however said the countdown to the strike was still on although negotiations with the employers’ association were ongoing.
When asked to comment on claims by Baz that the lowest paid employee was earning US$273 monthly, he said: “What he (Mushayanhu) was saying is not factual. Most bank employees do not get housing allowances because they own their own houses. The lowest paid is getting US$273 as regulated by the National Economic Council.”
Banking sources said bank employers and the union met this week and agreed on a “14th cheque” for April.
But the two parties reportedly disagreed on a proposed plan by the employers association to call for one-off salary negotiations each year. Zibawu makes quarterly submissions on salaries for its constituency. The sources said should Baz and Zibawu agree on the new bargaining timeline, the job action could be averted.
The workers are demanding an increment backdated to April amid massive
retrenchments in the banking sector.
Most banks have indicated various restructuring measures that include job cuts, reduction in branch networks and streamlining of operations. Limited lines of external credit have seen some of the country’s investment banks such as NDH “surrendering” operating licences due to depressed business.
Kingdom Financial Holdings, which this week published its financials, said lack of credit has seen the country shifting its hope of sourcing fresh capital to the mining industry.
Western governments are demanding full implementation of a coalition pact between President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara before they commit financial aid to the Southern African nation. Zimbabwe requires at least US$10 billion to fully resuscitate the economy.
“Zimbabwe’s failure to attract international financial resources since the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009 has forced it to look at its mineral resources, especially diamonds, as a way of raising the much needed working capital for its productive sectors,” reads a statement accompanying the group’s interim financials.

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