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Bank workers strike next week

GOVERNMENT and private-sector workers could next week face delays in accessing monthly salaries and annual bonuses after commercial banking employees threatened to embark on strike following a deadlock on remuneration negotiations, a workers union has warned.

Peter Mutasa, Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Union (Zibawu) president, a union representing 5 000 members, said bank workers will next week embark on industrial action over a failure by employer organisations to award a 115% salary rise backdated to July this year.

Zibawu said a stalemate was reached when the employers offered a 5% increment for the lowest paid non-clerical worker currently earning US$273 monthly. The threat comes barely four months after another looming strike was averted when Zibawu concerted to an annual bonus instead of a salary hike. The workers and employers during the last minute breakthrough also agreed to engage in once-a-year salary bargaining negotiations, marking a shift from the traditional quarterly salary reviews.

“Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union hereby advises all customers of commercial banks operating in Zimbabwe that its members will embark on collective job action anytime next week,” said Mutasa in a statement.

“This has been necessitated by Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (Baz) and Bank Employers Association of Zimbabwe’s unwillingness to meaningfully address welfare issues, especially salary review for the period July 2010 to June 2011.”

Mutasa said the union had planned to carry out the job action in phases to mitigate “great inconvenience” to the public.

Apart from the banking public, the industrial action will impact heavily on the corporate sector currently contributing the bulk of an average US$5 million that is transacted through the banking system daily.

Mutasa said eight banks, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, CBZ, NMB, Kingdom, Barclays, IDBZ and POSB, would be “affected the most during the first phase of the job action”.

He accused bank executives of unfairness saying they were receiving handsome salaries and perks above US$15 000 monthly while shop-floor workers were “surviving on leftovers”.

Baz president John Mushayavanhu and his deputy George Guvamatanga could not be reached for comment as their mobile phones continued to ring unanswered.

Mushayavanhu was in August quoted by the Zimbabwe Independent saying banks would not give in to unsustainable salary demands when workers demanded an 80% salary increment.

“You find state-of-the-art vehicles even in struggling banks like Agribank when our members are earning salaries beyond the poverty datum line of US$498,” Mutasa fumed. “Even struggling banks like Genesis have paid in full school fees for executives’ children for the entire 2011 calendar.”

Bank employers, Zibawu said, should “evenly distribute the cake” as bank deposits grow and profitability improves. Official figures show that bank deposits in October grew to US$2,3 billion from US$1,8 billion in June as confidence steadily improved in the sector which lost a savings culture after years of hyperinflation and arbitrary actions on foreign currency accounts by the central bank.

Zibawu last embarked on a job action in 2008 when bank employees went on a go-slow citing an unbearable cost of living triggered by the then unprecedented economic meltdown.

 

Bernard Mpofu/Berven Chatendeuka

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