Doors are shut in their faces.
They have become the “Unholy Four” in the financial sector.
Each time they apply for a job within the sector they are met with a stern “we regret” kind of a response.

Seemingly, all banking institution wouldn’t touch them with a barge-pole.
The four even suspect they may have been blacklisted since their dismissal by FNB in August last year.

Life has become a living hell as they continue to swell the ranks of the unemployed.

The sobering reality for the four is that there are serious penalties to pay when fighting for transformation within the likes of FNB.

This is the sorry saga of Siphesihle Jele, Sphamandla Masimula, Sipho Coke and Xolani Nkosiwho, all former premium bankers at FNB in Inanda, Sandton.
The four were purportedly dismissed for “gross misconduct” after the bank had monitored their emails and WhatsApp group conversations.

Whilst the media had focused their attention on what the FNB 4 had posted on their WhatsApp regards DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his white wife Natalie, they contend that the real reason for their dismissal was to call for transformation within the financial sector.

In one of the WhatsApp messages sent by one of the four, Jele cautioned:

“Let us (also) not forget that a black employee cannot afford to buy a house, cannot afford to buy a car and also cannot afford to provide basic commodities for his/her family…it is upon us to fight for equality and to transform that untransformed FNB”

The perception that SASBO is a ” Sweetheart Union ” is also backed by the fact that one of the FNB FOUR, Siphamandla Masimula was charged and ultimately dismissed by the bank for sending an email to the Union ( SASBO ) for insisting that the Union must assist in fighting for transformation within the bank !

The bank charged Masimula saying he was Encouraging the Union to be “radical and militant”

Poignant, you may say.

It is interesting that while the four may have been dismissed, their concerns still remain and unlikely to be addressed in the short to medium term.
Fact of the matter is that it is no longer a secret that the financial sector in South Africa is not banking on transformation.

Even in its recent report The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) points that there is over representation of white employees, in particular white men, at the levels of middle, senior and top management in the financial sector.
As if it were not enough, the report further states that white people, predominantly white men, benefit from high levels of recruitment, promotion and training opportunities.

In the face of such cold facts it is preposterous that the four black former employees with their collective experience of close to 100 years should be marginalized and left out in the cold.

Looking at the employment stats within the financial sector from 2013 the sector average for black senior management representation was 27.16% and by 2016 it had “improved” marginally to 29.5%.
Needless to say, the sector had scored below the 60% target for this important transformation indicator.

The CEE report further states that only 23% of entities are achieving target representation of black people at senior management level.
At around 28%, the financial sector performance is lower than the 32% reported by the 16th Commission for Employment Equity Report 2015-2016.
In a sector that prides itself of having 75% black employees, it is instructive that it continues to underperform in terms of the employment equity.

Whilst there has been an increase in overall staffing levels, this has happened primarily at the low skilled and semi-skilled levels.
Management positions have not been created at the same rate.
At the Inanda branch (opened in 2014) where the four were previously employed, there are no provisions for people with disability, for example.

Abaphenyi contacted the largest trade union within the sector, Sasbo – The Finance Union, formerly known as South African Society of Bank Officials launched in 1916 to find out their views about transformation.

The Finance Union which in its website states that it is “making a positive difference to the lives” of its 70 000 members referred us to the Finance Sector Code (previously known as the Finance Sector Charter.
The union’s assistant general secretary Vanessa Hattingh said Sasbo had negotiated the Finance Code document signed in 2001 and the latest promulgated in 2012.

She said the document forms the basis of transformation in the sector and that many programmes which include ownership, management control, employment equity, skills development, exist to give effect to this code.
“The banks at any given time performs better or worse in regard to these various aspects,” she said.

It is worth noting that in its entire history Sasbo has only had one strike.
No wonder most of the black employees within the sector consider it a “sweetheart union”.

As for FNB, the matter of the four is closed.
The bank claims it followed rigorous disciplinary process, including going to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) before the men were fired.

There was widespread condemnation of the FNB for dismissing the four, with largest trade union federation Cosatu and political organisations like the BLF staging pickets calling for their reinstatement and demanding that the bank stop “violating” employees rights by monitoring their emails and their WhatsApp chats.

‘We believe that the issues raised by these workers are legitimate and should be part of the national discourse. The issue of transformation in the banking sector in particular, cannot be postponed indefinitely,’ Cosatu said in a statement.

But judging from the bank’s recalcitrance it may well be that the “Unholy Four”, Cosatu and others are just flogging a dead horse.
The financial sector is just not banking on transformation.

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