SA banks dispute talk of mass retrenchments

The problems facing South Africa’s economy continue to increase. Fitch Ratings has revised the outlook on the country’s big five banks downwards from stable to negative. Courtesy #DStv403

JOHANNESBURG - South African banks are dismissing the number of layoffs that union Sasbo has put forward as it warns of a major strike.

The union says it will bring the banking sector to a halt if a solution isn't found to protect 10,000 jobs.

But banks are refuting the number of potential layoffs.

READ: SA banks facing biggest strike since 1920 

Low economic growth and stiff competition from branchless digital banks are forcing traditional institutions to restructure.

Many banks have already reduced their floor space and are streamlining operations.

READ: What to do when faced with the possibility of retrenchment

Sasbo general-secretary Joe Kokela said the union is up in arms.

"We believe as Sasbo that the banks knew, four, five years ago, that this was coming."

Standard Bank, which is in the process of shutting down 91 branches, has since released a statement, refuting that it will retrench 6 000 employees.

READ: Standard Bank to cut thousands of jobs

The bank says it's making strides to ensure that impacted employees are absorbed into other roles.

Nedbank -- which released flat interim results on Tuesday -- says it has been consulting with unions for months and fewer employees will be affected.

Nedbank COO Mfundo Nkuhlu said 1,400 of those staff will be accommodated in the new business area.

READ: Nedbank in talks with 1,500 staff over potential job cuts

"So that leaves us with a challenge of between 50 and 100 people who we'd have to find placement for.

"That's the conversation that's taking place, making sure that we appropriately skill them for the new roles and find placement for them.

"Clearly this notion that Nedbank is retrenching 1,500 people is in our view entirely not true," said Nkuhlu.