Newspaper reports are indicating that some permanent employees at ABSA bank have simply been told that they no longer have a job and that they are to be retrenched. At the time of being told, they are being asked to pack up their desks and leave. It seems that many are union members, represented by Solidarity.
As someone who has retrenched many people in my time, I have always admired the intention of our Labour Relations Act to treat employees with dignity and respect as mature adults. Many of the people I have retrenched have subsequently come back to me many years later to ask for advice on their rights when they were being retrenched again, and I have assisted many to start their own businesses very successfully. I have in fact retrenched myself and still speak to the MD with whom I consulted to achieve that.
If these media reports are correct (accepting that there's always many sides to a story), it seems to me that as South Africans we have something to demonstrate to the rest of the world (and Barclays) on how people should be treated. Whether retrenchments are needed and why are separate issues. But if an employer is going to conduct retrenchments, there is a better way.
Do you have information on what is happening at ABSA - would like to hear from you.
Unfortunately, I have no inside information, but it is a sad state of affairs seemingly getting rid of the majority white ABSA workers as they are the primary Solidarity union members at ABSA. Would love to know on what grounds they are retrenching these staff members, otherwise they will have a huge legal battle on their hands. ABSA has shown incredible growth on the stock and share markets the passed year and it doesn't seem to be for financial reasons why they are starting to retrench. They are so busy and always have long queues. It is realy odd measures they are taking.
Iam not too sure about the story,if the story is true then, the Union/s have to challenge the employer.In terms of the act, ABSA have to follow the LRA,Section 189A.
If the employer is failing to adhere into the act,therefore the Union/s have a duty to protect the interests of their
members as per the LRA,regardless of their skin colour.
Christine, I am not an employee at ABSA but I am a contractor there. The escorting by security on the same day part is true, according to inside rumors. Not a respectful process I agree, and I believe this is a practice imported from the UK. The retrenchments themselves though are entirely justified.
I don't know if anyone has read a recent survey that put ABSA as the most expensive bank in SA in terms of fees? They had lost some important clients due to this, so cost cutting and business process restructuring were long overdue.
There is nothing a union can do to prevent retrenchments as a "rights" matter. As long as s189 of LRA is followed, the company can scrap as many permanent posts as they wish.
2 weeks pay for each year worked (BCEA).
The law is very weak.
Unions are equally weak, so they can not fight this as an "interest" matter either.
Not that they won't PRETEND to "fight" it. After all, they want the subs...
Sylvia, this is indeed a sad state of affairs. From the news reports I have seen and heard, seemingly no legal process is being followed here. How is this possible?
From my experience some multi-national companies have very little knowledge, insight and experience with our labour laws and will do anything 'to get rid of the problem' as quickly as possible. I was once instructed by a multi-national to "bypass the Act" in a s197 transfer, which, off course, I refused to do. Could this possibly be the case with Barclays in this s189A? One would hope not.
Not knowing all sides to the story, it would seem that the only remedy available to those employees who were told to vacate their offices is to take class action, obviously with the assistance of the Union.
What I fail to understand is why employees are ESCORTED off the premises? Surely this is no way to treat a retrenched employee? As you rightly pointed out, with proper processes followed, an HR officer with some empathy and the correct guidance and support, retrenchees have a wonderful opportunity to create new futures for themselves. The shock of being retrenched is bad enough - to leave without any assistance and being treated like a criminal in the process seems to me like kicking a dog when he's down...
Maybe one of our colleagues within ABSA would like to comment?
This is indeed a tragedy when so many skilled people are left at the mercy of a company that some have worked for for years probably. No one even cares if that person had a family to feed. No one would care about the stress and mental state they would have put the person and their famiy through by retrenching the person. Does one even know the amount of people that commit suicide after loosing their job. I can only imagine how people must feel, having been through part of a similar process with my former employer. It fustrates me that people can just be shunted aside, as if they were of no value to the organisation. "Thank you, but your time is up" People, are a key resource of an organisation and if the organisation like ABSA does this to their staff, then I as a consumer would want nothing to do with them.
To anyone going through this is, maybe there is not much you can do about what is happening around you, but, you still have a skill that you were hired for in the first place. You still have enough power inside you to become someone and worth something to organisations out there that do care. So, as much as you are feeling the stress and depression around you, "get yourself up," "get out of your comfort zone." You should not be waiting to find out if you are next. This is the time to start speaking to people about your career path. Find out what support your SETA ( Sector Education and Training Authority ) could offer someone in your position. No one should be treated unfairly. We all have rights but we all need to take charge of our life and the situation we are in. I have, and I have never looked back.
Comment added by Ronald Morris
We should have expected this when Barclays took over Absa. These multi nationals feel nothing for people, all they look at is the bottom line.
i was employed at Absa and they went thru many changes but nothing like this happened.
When things like this happens then people vote with their feet and the economy suffers.
I hope the retrenched staff and their families everything of the best.
Adeline raised the issue of SETAs - now that made me think - does the re-training option to avoid retrenchments still exist? Have ABSA requested such assistance? Have they consulted with the employees on alternative positions, retraining, options to avoid retrenchment?
Yes, Sylvia - you are so right! Some other companies not only offer alternative positions or re-training, but even pay out an amount towards you starting your own business. Obviously there was a maximum amount to which they were willing to get you started, but it gave hope and allowed the entrepreneurial brain and skills to kick in. Some companies also offer psychological support to assist those staff to deal with the loss of their income. Surely ABSA can afford assisting these staff to leave with some dignity?
This is the SASBO response to media reports from Comfort Duma Assistant General Secretary, published in Cosatu Today 29 March 2012. Copied in full.
"We categorically state that SASBO will never agree to any retrenchments! We have taken Absa to court in the past on retrenchments; and if necessary we will do it again.
Sasbo is a well-established trade union and has the interests of its members at heart.
Currently there is much noise in the system about 3 000 employees that will be retrenched, but we would like to place it on record that we will oppose retrenchments. Our understanding is that this process is about the Bank’s realignment/restructuring of its operations and intended to do job matching.
We are fully aware of the fact that restructuring may lead to retrenchments but we will closely monitor the situation and make absolutely sure that Absa complies with every process and procedure of all the provisions of the Absa Reassignment and Retrenchment Policy and the relevant labour laws.
In fact we will continue to demand that Absa does everything in its power to avoid retrenchments and to take steps such as transferring, filling vacant positions through natural attrition and/or redeploying employees.
Before Absa decides to retrench its staff, the Union will ensure that the Bank consults with us on this very important matter.
Currently the affected staff members are on a 3 months reassignment period where they will be given opportunities to be re-deployed to available vacant positions.
We assure you that we have our finger on the pulse; and we also have the advantage of demanding accurate information from the Bank during our constant consultations as the sole majority and the only recognised Union.
We understand that there are uncertainties amongst our members but don’t be afraid because we are supporting you throughout this whole process! We will continue to protect and defend the interests of our members.
We are firmly against retrenchments and believe one job lost is one too many.
Should you want any further information please contact any of our Regional Offices or our Head Office. Amandla!"
Is ABSA adhering to the Labour Relations Act? Business Day reports Fergus Marupen stating that 500 people must reapply for their jobs, and that last year 234 had to reapply and 145 were retrenched. Cape Argus reports that ABSA does not recognise Solidarity as a labour organisation. Solidarity's Dirk Herman is reported as saying that they can't do anything for their members until they are retrenched.
Now here is the question: the LRA s189(1) states: "When an employer contemplates dismissing one or more employees for reasons based on the employer's operational requirements, the employer must consult-
...(c)if there is no workplace forum in the workplace in which the employees likely to be affected by the proposed dismissals are employed, any registered trade union whose members are likely to be affected by the proposed dismissals;"
Therefore, my interpretation is:
1) ABSA is clearly contemplating retrenchments because it is reducing numbers & it is highly unlikely that it will redeploy the total number - last year's figures support this, and
2) it should be consulting with whatever registered unions have members who are affected - whether they recognise the TU or not is not relevant - and that the union doesn't have to be recognised by the employer. The TU just needs to be registered to be consulted.
Is this a correct interpretation of this section of the Act? Welcome comments from members on their interpretation.
A number of people have indicated their need for more information on employee rights and employer obligations during retrenchment (operational requirements dismissals).
So we've loaded relevant sections of the Labour Relations Act and the Code of Good Practice on Operational Requirements Dismissals into the Download section - please see on the Main title bar across the skills-universe site.