Please, put the axe down


Zimbabwe’s bank workers are hurting, but have a new resolve — they cannot helplessly watch the hangman sealing their fate without a fight anymore.
They all agree the epitaph is a sorry one for every one of them – they worked in plenty, but exited into poverty.
The Zimbabwe Bank Workers Union (Zibawu) says it is making efforts to seek the intervention of the government in the intensifying financial industry retrenchments that may claim up to 1 000 jobs by the end of the year.
Nearly every one of the country’s 28 banking institutions have downsized by shutting down branches and laying off workers in the last 18 months to buck the liquidity squeeze and slowdown in business that hit the industry when the economy multi-currencied in February last year.
In the second half of the year, at least 11 banks will be terminating more than 800 positions at a cost that carries the value of just a few months of labour, according to Zibawu president, Peter Mutasa.
“Almost 75% of banks are retrenching,” Mutasa said. “We have witnessed retrenchments, which are unjustifiable if considered against any economic factor. It has just become fashionable for banks to retrench workers. But the major issue here is that the retrenchment packages are pathetic.”
Mutasa claims severance packages paid so far range from $2 000 to $3 000, on average, hardly enough to see someone through six months. “We are dismayed by employers’ attitude. They no longer consider that most of these workers went through 2007, 2008 and part of 2009 without pay,” said Mutasa.
According to Zibawu, Barclays Bank is retrenching 200 workers countrywide — the largest number so far — followed by POSB, which is sending home 160; NMB Bank, which is also axing 111; Interfin, which is offloading 150; Metropolitan bank, which is getting rid of over 100 and Standard Chartered Bank, which is wishing 98 well in their next engagements.
CBZ Holdings and Agribank are also in the process of decongesting their payrolls by a number yet to be confirmed, along with Tetrad, Renaissance and Kingdom.
Last year, CABS — Zimbabwe’s largest building society — cut its branch network to 33 from about 83 through a voluntary retrenchment of close to 90 workers. Local banking institutions decided to rationalise operations — merging operating units and disposing others — at the daybreak of ‘dollarisation’ in February last year to head off a grave liquidity squeeze and low banking confidence that triggered financial disintermediation.
This arose directly from record hyperinflation, which eroded bank balances and aggravated the economy’s propensity for holding cash that festered in the economy at the time of the transition, stifling deposit-taking and lending.
Although the monetary authorities have reported an increase in financial sector deposits and credit growth, the holdings are mostly demand deposits or ‘hot cash’ rather than loanable balances.