Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (Zibawu) is entangled in a bitter wrangle with Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (Econet)’s wholly owned subsidiary Steward Bank over the bank’s decision to cut employee salaries by 20%.
The union charges that the proposed compulsory 20% salary cut effective July 1, 2015 is unfair on the grounds that some of the employees transferred from Econet to Steward Bank get better salaries compared to those that have been with the bank prior to its acquisition by the mobile operator.
It is said that former Econet employees are earning US$3 000 while those who have been with the bank before it rebranded to Steward Bank are getting just US$800 for the same job.
In a letter dated 22 June 2015, the bank gave its employees notice of a shorter working week in line with a 20% salary cut across the board effective July 1, 2015 as a special measure to avoid retrenching its staff.
The bank said since the publication of its results it was experiencing a decline in consumer demand forecasting that the poor performance of the economy would continue impacting adversely on consumer spending.
“The business will implement a reduction of working hours by 20% thereby resulting in a pro-rated reduction in remuneration per month.
This arrangement shall be reviewed from time to time in line with the provisions of section 12 D of the Labour Act,” reads part of the signed letter by Steward Bank’s acting chief executive Lance Mambondiani. In a letter dated June 26 2015 Zibawu wrote to the bank’s employees advising them not to sign the contracts that deprive they should receive salaries.
“Our advice is that please do not sign these agreements, because you will be signing off your rights. Contrary to the unlawful and intimidatory assertions that by not accepting the agreements one commits a misconduct, you all free as in any unlawful contract to either accept or decline. It is mischievous for the bank to threaten employees who are not interested in this purported agreement,” Zibawu said.
In a letter written to Mambondiani, Zibawu warned the bank against accepting variations of the contracts with the union contesting that the bank was violating the Labour Act.
“ We note with great concern that you are coercing your employees to accept your unlawful variation of their contracts to the provisions of section 12 D of the Labour Act chapter 28:01 .
The act provides for a negotiation between the employer and his employees and not the manner in which you are handling the process. The Act envisage parties to agree rather than one party foisting down the throat of the other party,” the union said.
Zibawu feels the issue should have been discussed at works council and not ad hoc fashion where each head of department is purported to have engaged with workers. “Strangely, we also hear that you have already gone ahead to implement your ill advised programme setting schedules of reduced working hours thereby negatively affecting our members.
“We wish to warn you that should deny our members their right to come to work on the pretext of your scheduled working plans, we will consider your actions as lock outs in terms of section 105 of the Labour Act and the necessary steps will be taken against your actions.”
Zibawu further advised all Steward Bank non-managerial employees in a memo on July 6 that the matter was referred to lawyers who were preparing papers to file with relevant courts.
Formerly TN Bank, Steward Bank was acquired by Econet in 2012 45 percent shareholding in the bank. In February 2013, it acquired the remaining 55 % shareholding, thereby turning TN Bank into a 100 % subsidiary of the mobile phone company.
In July 2013, TN Bank rebranded to Steward Bank and began a sequence of reforms to differentiate itself from its former owners, through setting up a new board of directors, creating a new corporate logo, and relocating its branches away from Lifestyle Holdings locations the former parent company of TN Bank.