Nedbank Namibia has dismissed allegations by the Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu) that it is in an “alliance” with the courts to prevent what the union called an “imminent strike.”According to the bank, it has always regarded and respected Nafinu as a key business partner with the same interests of ensuring the best possible outcomes for its members.
“The allegation seems to imply that our courts are not impartial in the pursuit of justice and we rightfully dismiss this quite disturbing allegation. As a responsible corporate citizen, Nedbank Namibia had no other option but to implore our legal system to call Nafinu to order for their flagrant disregard of the law.
“The bank has always contended that we will not subscribe to any behaviour that will have a catalytic anarchist effect and we felt confident that the courts will rule in favour of our principled decision, which they subsequently have. The bank will also not allow Nafinu to ride roughshod over the basic principles of good faith bargaining, or to mislead our staff in any way,” Nedbank’s head of marketing and communications Gernot de Klerk said.
The union has said after wage negotiations deadlocked and a certificate of unresolved dispute was issued, more than 94 percent of Nedbank’s staff voted in favour of a strike.
“When Nedbank realised that a strike was imminent it hastily registered a case of ‘bad faith bargaining’ against the union, with the Labour Commissioner’s office alleging that the union never considered its offer in good faith. The bank thereafter ran to their alliance with the courts to grant a temporary interdict preventing the workers from striking until their ‘unfair labour practice’ dispute at the Labour Commissioner has been heard and resolved,” charged Nafinu’s general secretary Asnath Zamuee.
She said the union was “flabbergasted” to learn that Nedbank went as far as “choosing” a trade union for its employees. “The bank announced that it will invite different trade unions to do presentations and [will] then choose their desired union to represent the employees. This is seriously taking a huge step backwards to the days of apartheid when workers had no choice of representation. There is no justification for a South African bank to behave in such a manner. No foreign institution should enter our country and behave in such an arrogant manner,” Zamuee objected.
“This is not true. Nedbank cannot choose a union for its employees. The process is guided by the freedom of association exercised by the employees. Any union may be granted access to our premises and employees when they request such access… Nedbank is an accountable institution and will not operate contrary to the laws governing our nation. Nafinu’s membership levels have dropped substantially to well below the threshold that would have secured them exclusive bargaining power. This has led to another union requesting access to our premises to recruit members, which we are obligated by the Labour Act to allow.
“Any notion that an employer could prescribe to its employees which union they should, or should not, choose to represent their interests is far-fetched and surely undermines their ability to think for themselves,” De Klerk responded. He further pointed out that Section 65 (2) of the Labour Act states that an employer may not unreasonably refuse an authorised representative of a registered trade union access to the employer’s premises to recruit members, to hold meetings with members, or to perform any union function in terms of a collective agreement.
De Klerk also reacted to Nafinu’s assertion that “Nedbank is a hostile employer” and that “workers are highly demotivated and demoralised” by saying: “Our usual staff surveys, which are conducted independently and in the strictest confidentiality, would dictate otherwise. The bank also has independently-managed communication channels by means of which all employees are encouraged to engage management directly on matters of concern, which are then addressed conclusively, as and when they arise. The bank recognises its inherent responsibility to ensure a motivated and engaged employee contingent as part of our aspirations to create a ‘Great Place to Work’, and as such, our human resources team has undertaken a significant engagement process by means of which our espoused position of inclusivity and a rewarding work experience is vigorously pursued,” De Klerk noted.