South Africa’s major banking strike to cause total shutdown

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South Africa’s largest financial union Sasbo will embark on a major banking strike on Friday (27 September).

Apart from a strike, its members plan protest action and a march to the banks’ head offices around Johannesburg. It previously warned that ATMs may not be functional, and that the strike will continue on Saturday.

The union’s general secretary Joe Kokela said that employees from all of the country’s major banks and other financial institutions will be protesting over planned retrenchments in the banking sector, and calling for a moratorium on job losses.

It is said that the union is expecting 30 000 to 40,000 members across the financial industry to stay away from work. The protest action has also received additional support from South Africa’s largest trade federation Cosatu.

Five major marches are planned throughout the country in Johannesburg, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Many local banks have closed a number of their branches as a result of digitalisation, which encourages self-service, with clients using their mobile phones and computers, rather than walking into a branch.

Absa, Standard Bank, and Nedbank Group have all consulted with staff about cuts in recent months.

Absa is restructuring operations across its business units, Standard Bank is closing 91 branches, while Nedbank is in talks with about 1,500 employees over job cuts.

While the strike threatens to bring the country’s banking sector to a standstill, South Africa’s biggest banks say that they are preparing for the strike action.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom said that customers would be kept informed should there be any change or disruption to their banking activity. Absa and Nedbank have also indicated that they are aware of the impending strike action and are in talks with the union regarding its impact.

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