Standard Bank places a very high premium on the welfare of its employees, whom it considers its biggest and most valuable currency, to ensure that banking clients are served by happy, motivated and competent employees.
Over and above the salaries, the Bank has also invested heavily in employee development over the years in the form of enhancement to employee benefits as well as by providing opportunities for growth and development.
For the past 5 financial years, Standard Bank has affected competitive, market-related salary increases, in excess of inflation.
Standard Bank’s commitment to employees cannot be over-emphasised. Comparatively, employee salaries and other benefits such as housing and transport compare well or are above the industry averages.
It is with this commitment in mind that the Bank annually engages the recognised Union for salary negotiations. That frame of reference also guided the Bank as it entered into negotiations with the Union for the 2019 salary and benefit increases.
SALARY NEGOTIATIONS FOR 2019
Standard Bank has a recognition Agreement with the Bank Workers Union of Namibia (BAWON), which outlines the labour relationship between the two parties. This includes the principles and ground rules for the negotiation of salaries and other benefits on behalf of employees in the bargaining unit.
At the start of the negotiations, the Union tabled a demand for a 9% salary increase for its members, providing as a basis for its proposal the cost of living and other factors. The basis for the high demand, in the face of low inflation of 4.1%, could not and has not been provided.
Whilst taking note of BAWON’s demand, from a sustainability perspective, the Bank could not accede to the 9% increase but instead offered an average increase of 4.5% informed by the inflation rate based on the following key considerations:
• Current inflation is at 4.1%
• The average 5.2% salary increase offered by the Bank is significantly higher than the 4.1% inflation rate
• The current state of the economy
Following further negotiations, the Union reduced its demand to 7.2% whilst the Bank increased its offer to an average of 5.2%, despite the belief that an inflation adjustment of 4.1% would be fair and sustainable.
In fact, more than 60% of Standard Bank employees would be getting an increase of between 5.5% and 6% based on their 2018 performance. The Union did not accept the Bank’s offer, resulting in a declaration of a dispute that was followed by several rounds of conciliation meetings facilitated by the Office of the Labour Commissioner between May 2019 and July 2019.
Due to the impasse between the Bank and the Union, the industrial action provision as stipulated in Article 22 of the Recognition Agreement between Standard Bank and BAWON is expected to take effect.
While the conciliation process was ongoing, the Bank refrained from engaging its employees to demonstrate our respect to the conciliation process and to ensure that negotiations were held in good faith.
Following the unsuccessful conclusion of the conciliation process, the Bank is engaging directly with our employees to clarify the basis for our offer and why the said offer is reasonable.
The current dispute does not impact the managerial employees as they have already agreed to lower average salary increases of 3% and 0% for junior and senior managers respectively. The dispute relates, however, only to the bargaining unit.
In terms of the Recognition Agreement, the Union and the Bank will meet to agree on the rules and logistics for conducting a secret ballot by BAWON’s paid–up members.
We are hopeful that reason will prevail and that the employees will accept the Bank’s offer. However, in the unfortunate event that a strike is decided upon, the Bank has in place contingencies to ensure that disruption to its services are kept to an absolute minimum. Clients and other stakeholders will be informed of these plans.
We thank our loyal clients and stakeholders for their support and understanding during this period. We are confident that the labour dispute will be resolved in the interests of the employees, the Bank and the country.
We will continue to engage employees with a view to finding an amicable and sustainable solution. Our future course, as a Bank, will be advised by the outcome of our attempts to resolve this matter with our employees.
As a caring and people-centric institution, Standard Bank is still open to continue engaging with employees or their representatives.