50,000 South African bankworkers to strike! – as miners vow to occupy mines to stop closure

Sasbo strikers on the picket line during a previous strike

Bankworkers union Sasbo (South African Society of Bank Officials) said South Africans should brace themselves for a complete standstill in the financial services sector when it embarks on its strike tomorrow.

Workers affiliated to the union will go on strike in Gauteng, the Free State, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal on Friday, bringing the South African banking sector to its knees.

The union said it is expecting 50,000 of its members to stay away from work.

Sasbo General Secretary Joe Kokela said the union is calling for a moratorium from banks on job losses.

‘We are calling for another look at CEO and executive salaries because they are getting exorbitant salaries which are not equal to what workers are earning.’

He insisted: ‘We also want direction on how the institutions are planning to deal with the fourth industrial revolution, whereby with the skilling and upskilling and reskilling of workers if they might be at risk of losing their jobs.’

Sasbo said its members in Gauteng will march from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in Braamfontein to Bank City in Johannesburg tomorrow.

As many as 50,000 workers in the banking sector will be protesting against retrenchments on Friday, making it impossible for consumers to carry out transactions, according to the finance union spokesperson.

Speaking on Monday, Sasbo’s Kokela said that the strike action had been planned since June and there is no way the union will back out now, even if the banks were to change their minds about the retrenchments ahead of the protest scheduled for Friday.

‘As Sasbo, we are adamant there is nothing they (the banks) can do,’ he warned. ‘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, which amounts to about 73,000 people.

Kokela said that by last Friday, 20th September, between 45,000 and 50,000 workers had committed to taking strike action tomorrow against the retrenchments which have been caused by branch closures in recent months.

The protest, which will kick off at 10am 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.

  • The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has vowed to take over South African mines that are planning to close their operations because of nonprofitability.

Delivering his inaugural speech last Saturday, shortly after being re-elected as Amcu’s president for another five-year term, Joseph Mathunjwa said the organisation wanted to take mines which had indicated a shut down might be imminent, because ‘the minerals belong to our people and government is just the custodian’.

Mathunjwa said: ‘No mine must shut down because it is not making profit.

‘If they want to close the mine, then we are taking it.

‘No mine should be mothballed because of superprofits, and for any mine that does so, we will be taking it over.

‘We will go to the department of mineral resources and tell them that because they are our servants, we want that (mining) licence.

‘We cannot be held to ransom by monopoly capital. We will take back what belongs to us.

‘We do not owe anyone an apology,’ Mathunjwa said, to cheers and applause from hundreds of delegates who attended the union’s elective congress, which took place in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.

During his address, Mathunjwa also said the union needed to build agricultural academies in the various provinces to train retrenched mine workers to farm.

‘If, at the next elective congress, we buy farms to build agricultural academies, all our comrades will be trained there, because the future of our economy is in agriculture. Can you imagine if, in every province, we have an Amcu academy?’ he said.

The union also resolved, during the three-day congress, to lobby for the consolidation of workplace legislation in the mining sector.

Last Friday, Mathunjwa was re-elected to lead AMCU, extending his time at the helm of the labour movement he founded in 1998.

Mathunjwa was elected unopposed at a congress held in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.

In his address, he vowed to be unapologetic about fighting for poor workers, while slamming the government for being anti-poor.

‘We are more than just a union that conducts wage negotiations and we need to take our children off the streets.

‘As a re-elected president, I am not going to be apologetic. We have been given a mandate as AMCU leaders, we have work to do.

‘Those who have elected us, are expecting a lot from us. This is not an inheritance.’

Since its formation, AMCU has increased its membership, particularly in the North West platinum belt, with considerable gains in the gold sector.

AMCU represented those killed in the Marikana massacre which saw 34 Lonmin mine workers killed by police during a strike over wages in August 2012.

‘This government is not for the poor but for those with influence. Workers are still being killed and there is no accountability for the mining bosses who continue to kill workers,’ said Mathunjwa.

‘We, as a country, cannot expect anything better when those implicated in the Marikana Massacre are running the country.’

The union is known for staging lengthy strikes over working conditions and pay increases.

In April, AMCU ended a five-month long strike at Sibanye-Stillwater gold mines, as it opposed a three-year wage agreement signed between the company and the National Union of Metalworkers, Solidarity and UASA.

Under Mathunjwa’s leadership, AMCU has also faced challenges with authorities.

In April, the Department of Labour issued a notice of intention to deregister the trade union due to non-compliance with its constitution, arguing it was not a genuine trade union.

The Registrar of Labour Relations, Lehlohonolo Molefe, later announced that the union would not be deregistered.

  • The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Monday that South Africa has a deficit of to 400,000 nurses and wouldn’t be able to meet the demand once the National Health Insurance (NHI) comes into effect.

The party said that in its hurried attempt to implement NHI, the government has stalled the process of accrediting new and current nurse training institutions, which would be critical to the rollout of the NHI.

This came as Parliament’s health portfolio committee sent letters to all political parties in the National Assembly that public hearings on the NHI Bill would start in October.

The DA said it would write to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to request a detailed public statement explaining how his department would expedite the process of accrediting nursing institutions.

The party said this was central to the successful implementation of the NHI because trained nurses would service NHI accredited healthcare centres.

DA Member of Parliament Madeleine Hicklin said it was puzzling how the government intended to achieve its NHI target of one staff member per 40 patients ratio when it had shown that it was not committed to finding an urgent solution to the nursing crisis.

‘The current predictions are in excess of 400,000 nurses across the board that we need in terms of an additional staff complement to match what is needed for the NHI,’ Hicklin said.

She said the DA would raise these and other concerns when it makes an official submission during the NHI public hearings, in Mpumalanga from 25 to 28 October.