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Stanbic in eye of ‘wage theft’ storm

STANBIC Bank Zimbabwe is facing its toughest moments in many years, after a key union approached the financial institution’s South African headquartered parent, Standard Bank Group, raising a stink over ‘wage theft’ and ‘slave wages’ at the Harare operation.

STANBIC Bank Zimbabwe is facing its toughest moments in many years, after a key union approached the financial institution’s South African headquartered parent, Standard Bank Group, raising a stink over ‘wage theft’ and ‘slave wages’ at the Harare operation.


NewDay Business can reveal that so deep has been the standoff that multiple letters have been dispatched to the South Africa Society of Bank Officials and the International Labour Union’s Sadc office by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to complain about the state of affairs at Stanbic.

The dispute highlights the growing pressure on companies to pay staff living wages, as inflation, at 471% in October, eats into the earnings of Zimbabwe’s hard-pressed workers. Most employees earn far below the poverty datum line, which was estimated at over $20 000 at the end of October.

Zimbabwe’s year-on-year inflation has been underpinned by an extensive depreciation of the domestic currency in the past year, although the rage has been tapering off since the second half of 2020.

In his frank letter to Standard Bank chief executive officer Simphiwe Tshabalala dated November 24, Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (Zibawu) acting general secretary-Shepard Ngandu said Stanbic management had failed to consider the deteriorating crisis and respond to workers plight.

He said Stanbic could not claim inability to improve salaries given its healthy profits during the year ended December 31, 2019.

He said Stanbic had also made a profit during the half year ended June 30, 2020, and was recently voted as the country’s best bank.

Ngandu told Stanbic management that they were placing the bank at the risk of fraud by hard-pressed staff.

“Workers in your Zimbabwe subsidiary are thus seriously impoverished and require your urgent intervention to address their salaries and benefits,” Ngandu said in the letter to Tshabalala titled ‘Deplorable and Unmitigated Working Conditions for Stanbic Zimbabwe Staff’.

“Workers are borrowing to augment their meagre salaries, which is unsustainable and thus exposing them and the bank to potential risk of frauds and thefts.

“While many other banks pay for their employees’ school fees, Stanbic employees do not enjoy this benefit, leaving them worse off in comparison to their peers.

“Other financial institutions of comparable size have come up with better packages to cushion employees against the vagaries of inflation and currency volatility. There is no doubt that these workers are exposed to decent work deficits in your Zimbabwean subsidiary and susceptible to wage theft by local management.

“The obtaining situation, clearly in our view, is against Standard Bank Group values and ethos of sound corporate governance and responsible corporate citizenry.

“We demand that you urgently intervene so that the welfare of Standard Bank Zimbabwe non-managerial salaries is addressed without any further delay.

“We are advised that your organisation has the capacity to address workers’ issues but local management seems to pursue personal objectives at the expense of other stakeholders, particularly workers,” Zibawu said.

“We are advised that the bank and its workers had a reasonable salary arrangement which expired in February 2020.

“Social dialogue efforts were pursued between the workers’ committee and local management without success since the expiry of the previous arrangement to date.

“It is common cause that the Zimbabwe dollar continues to lose value both on the formal and informal markets currently at 81,8 and 110 against the United States dollar respectively.

“Inflation was recently reported at 471% while goods and services are pegged in United States dollars they track unofficial USD exchange rates.”

On Sunday, NewsDay Business emailed the Zibawu letter to Stanbic, which turned down a request for comment.

But Zabawu insisted that Stanbic had the capacity to improve workers’ salaries.

“The Zimbabwe poverty datum ZWL$17 956 as at September 2020 against average net salaries of less than ZWL$10 000 for most Stanbic Zimbabwe non-managerial workers,” Ngandu said.

“In 2019 and half year 2020, Stanbic Bank posted in historical terms a profit of ZWL$477 million and ZWL$1, 401million respectively.

“Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe was named “the best bank” of the year in 2019 by the Banker magazine. These accolades surely don’t befit a bank paying slave wages as is currently obtaining,” Zibawu said.

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