'Make sure you have enough money on Thursday.' Union issues warning ahead of bank strike

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As much as 50,000 workers in the banking sector will be protesting against retrenchments on Friday, making it difficult for consumers to transact, according to the finance union spokesperson.

Speaking to Fin24 by phone on Monday, Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela said that the protest action has been planned since June and there is no way the union will back out now, even if banks change their minds about retrenchments ahead of the protest scheduled for Friday.

"As Sasbo we are adamant there is nothing they (banks) can do," he added. "We no longer trust what banks are saying and doing to our members."

Sasbo says it represents about 70% of workers in the banking sector, about 73 000 people. Kokela said by Friday, September 20, between 45,000 and 50,000 workers had committed to protest against retrenchments caused by branch closures in recent months.

Earlier this year Standard Bank closed 91 branches, with as many as 1 200 jobs affected, Fin24 previously reported. Absa also warned that hundreds of its jobs may be at risk as part of a restructuring initiative.

"We will shut down systems in the banking industry," Kokela said. He confirmed this means ATMs will also be affected, as well as any card transactions. "Make sure you have enough money (cash) on Thursday," Kokela said. "No one will be able to transact, unfortunately," he emphasised. 

This week's protest is protected under section 77 of the Labour Relations Act because it is related to a socio-economic matter, Sasbo said. Sasbo has received a certificate from the National Economic Development and Labour Council to go ahead, Kokela said.

He previously told Bloomberg that the union wants banks to consider other options besides retrenchments, such as reskilling programmes for workers to stay employable.

The protest, which will kick off at 10:00 on Friday, will be nationwide, with marches taking place in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Durban, Kokela said. There will also be picketing.

Sasbo will hold another march, on October 7. This protest will be led by trade union federation Cosatu, Kokela said.

On Monday morning, the South African Revenue Service has warned that the strike may impact tax payment and refund transactions, and encouraged taxpayers to conduct any transactions with SARS at least two business days in advance. 

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