The Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) is appealing to unions to call off plans to embark on a strike, as labour calls the recent high court decision to interdict Friday’s national shut down a “minor setback”.
On Thursday the Labour Court ruled that finance union Sasbo’s strike was unprotected after Basa, led by Business Unity South Africa (Busa), applied to interdict the strike on procedural grounds.
It was estimated that over 40 000 Sasbo members would take to the streets on Friday, in a stand against job cut announcements across the banking sector, whose operations have been disrupted by increasing digitisation.
Busa argued that the Section 77 strike notice that was issued by trade union federation Cosatu to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) was not valid, because it was issued in August 2017 and could not be relied on in 2019. Sasbo, an affiliate of Cosatu, had planned to act under this notice.
Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker did not give reasons for granting the interdict, saying they will be granted in due course.
“We are disappointed because we think we have done everything in the right procedure and we are disappointed in the judgement because it does not explain what it is that we did not comply with,” said Cosatu Secretary General Bheki Ntshalintshali.
Ntshalintshali was speaking on the sidelines of the Nedlac Summit in Sandton on Thursday.
He said the union had followed procedure and Nedlac also confirmed that it was compliant, so the ruling by Judge Rabkin-Naicker is puzzling.
“Indeed we have to appeal… it is a very bad judgement in our view.
“We don’t know what is in her mind; there is no grasp of law in the manner she has ruled,” he said.
Ntshalintshali said Cosatu will both appeal and resubmit another Section 77 strike certificate, because “the problems are still there”.
“It is a temporary victory for business… in fact, this clearly indicates that the banking sector cares less about workers,” said Ntshalintshali.
Let’s go back to the drawing board
Basa Managing director Cas Coovadia would not be drawn on whether business will challenge Cosatu’s appeal, saying it will consider its options.
“What we would urge is that Sasbo considers suspending the strike and let’s go back to the drawing board and see what we can do,” he said.
Coovadia said the interdict provides the two parties with an opportunity to “take a step back” and engage on the underlying issues that have created an environment that has contributed to job losses.
Busa President Sipho Pityana said it’s regrettable that the matter had landed up in court, especially after business had invited the unions to have a bilateral discussion about their grievances.
“The strike action took us by surprise completely in the context of that gesture; it was completely unwarranted,” said Pityana.
Pityana said business is still dedicated to one of the commitments it made at the 2018 Jobs Summit: that it will try by all means to avoid job losses.
He said South Africa has rigorous legislation on retrenchments, that empowers unions to be engaged or challenge the efficacy of layoffs as an appropriate way to save companies. Pityana said the reality of this detailed process is not lost on employers who do not institute retrenchments irrationally.
“The narrative out there that there is arbitrary action with retrenchments should be put paid because none of us want to see people unemployed for the sake of it.”