Shareholders are not banks’ only priority – livelihoods are at ...

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Shareholders are not banks’ only priority – livelihoods are at stake

Shareholder value that is at odds with societal value is not sustainable . We need a new paradigm

Ayabonga Cawe

Assuming the suits in Sandton aren’t members of banking union Sasbo, the finance-sector protest would certainly have included few pinstriped suits, fast cars or shiny brogues. That the polite lady who asks you all the questions when you’re applying for a loan might be replaced by an automated virtual assistant – such as Naledi, developed by four University of Cape Town students – may drive the point home a bit further.

With that change comes the potential displacement of many from their livelihoods, and sadly it seems industry stakeholders were not ready for the banks to go “branchless”, judging from the many irate radio talk-show callers on #MetroFMTalk who addressed the matter. Many were members of Sasbo, who used the opportunity to tell the union’s general secretary, Joe Kokela, about their experiences of uncompliant section 189 consultation processes in their workplaces.

Those who are set to lose their jobs in the banking sector join successive waves of such exits within the sector and beyond. About 9,000 jobs were lost in the construction sector alone in the second quarter, according to Stats SA’s quarterly employment statistics. That is a lot of jobs in a sector that, according to the multipliers published in the 2017 budget review, produces 3.4 unskilled jobs and 1.5 skilled jobs for every extra R1m in output. Construction’s labour absorption capability is far higher than the financial services sector. In the mining sector in the same week, Sibanye announced 5,270 potential layoffs in an uncertain political and economic environment, at home and abroad. This has the makings of destabilising social tension...

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