Three of South Africa's largest banks have indicated that they have already consulted with their affected employees about job cuts that are happening. The banks have generally said that the thousands of retrenchments and closure of many of their branches are as a result of automation and digitization of their operations.

As a result of this, SASBO (South African Society of Bank Officials) which is a labour union in South Africa for financial sector workers, has organised a march for 27 September 2019 in which it has promised that not only will their members which are employed by South Africa's major banks take to the streets in protest, but will also likely lead to a cash shortage in the country on the day as the union's General Secretary, Joe Kokela, has indicated that their members will also not replenish cash in Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) across South Africa on the day.

"Sasbo is planning five marches throughout the country in Johannesburg, Durban. Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Your Sasbo Regional Office will have more details on the times and venues and will be shared with you in due course," said Kokela.

Misplaced blame on 4IR

As mentioned, the South African banks, when announcing the retrenchments and closure of some of their branches, placed the blame on 4IR (The Fourth Industrial Revolution). Despite their mention of 4IR as the cause being factually incorrect considering that digitization and automation are, strictly speaking, part of the 3rd Industrial Revolution. I find their reasoning a bit lame.

Source: Innovation Excellence.

I say lame because as banks, they have been aware for years, if not decades, of the digitization trends in the banking industry around the world and how those impact certain jobs. As such, they could have prepared their employees for this long before it was necessary to retrench staff.

Sensitizing their staff in time could have facilitated exploring various re-skilling opportunities and in some cases the employees could have made alternative plans and preparations being fully aware that their jobs are soon to be redundant.


26 September 2019: South Africa’s Labour Court has interdicted the planned banking strike expected to take place on 27 September 2019.

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