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First Capital Bank lays off 235 workers

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LEADING financial services provider First Capital Bank (FCB) has reportedly laid off about 235 workers since taking over the institution from Barclays Plc, amid a deterioration in labour standards, the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers’ Union (Zibawu) has reported.

Speaking to The NewsHawks this week, Zibawu secretary-general Peter Mutasa said all is not well at one of the country’s biggest banks.

“Since taking over the bank, FCB has, to date, retrenched almost 235 for the two retrenchments so far. Salaries remain very low, ranging between ZW$32 000 to ZW$40 000 gross.

Many workers are therefore taking home as little as ZW$15 000, which is insufficient for a monthly food basket only,” he said. In comparison, he said, some banks have constantly increased their workers’ salaries and other benefits to over ZW$60 000, on top of other US dollar allowances, as well as groceries and fuel allowances.

“Most banks have already paid groceries allowances of between ZW$50 000 to ZW$115 000 and across the industry. FCB is only offering ZW$11 000 as a once-off grocery payment. This has been regarded by workers as demeaning and an insult, considering what other banks are paying,” Mutasa said.

Documents seen by The NewsHawks showed that the union is already embroiled in a feud with the bank’s shareholders over the matter. In a letter dated 30 November 2021 addressed to shareholders under the care of one Mr Hitesh, Mutasa expressed “utmost disappointment” in the manner in which the new bank owners are treating workers.

“As the representative of the majority shareholder, you ought to be ashamed of the loss of goodwill that the business you acquired from Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe PLC has incurred to date as far as treatment of employees is concerned,” the letter said in part.

The union reminded the new shareholders how the workers’ union stood by them when jostling erupted for the take over of the financial institution.

“Secondly you made a commitment before the employees at Holiday Inn Harare and on several other occasions that you would preserve employment and treat workers with dignity. However, we have watched with absolute shock and disbelief when you engaged in two brutal retrenchments where employees were let go with literally nothing,” Zibawu said.

The union issued a chilling warning to the board, directing it to take immediate measures to improve working conditions in Zimbabwe or risk veering into an inevitable collision course with the employees, which may damage the bank’s brand.

 The Zibawu secretary-general demanded that FCB Zimbabwe take immediate steps to start paying decent living wages which are aligned to the economic environment and performance of the bank.

He said the bank must commence genuine negotiations with the workers’ committee which must result in the payment of US dollar salaries since the institution is generating adequate foreign currency amid calls to urgently stop the wanton and irresponsible retrenchments which take employees to their early graves.

“While we do not seek to cause industrial disharmony in your bank, please note that we are prepared to lodge perpetual campaigns against First Capital Bank until it begins to respect its employees and their rights at the workplace,” Mutasa added in the letter.

 In a statement, FCB managing director Ciaran McSharry confirmed the engagement with Zibawu, but said the bank was engaging internal staff representative bodies.

“First Capital Bank Zimbabwe can confirm receipt of a letter sent by the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union, Zibawu, on the 30th of November, 2021. The bank carried out a restructuring exercise which was necessitated by the changing operating environment and a new business model as we endeavour to align with local and global banking trends,” McSharry said.

“We remain committed to fostering a culture of open dialogue through numerous engagement initiatives with internal staff representative bodies, where collective efforts and output continue to be realised steadily. The bank remains committed to promoting employee welfare, creating a safe, inclusive and supportive workplace for all its employees and effectively serving our customers.” — STAFF WRITER.

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