Saturday, January 23, 2021

Barclays Botswana employees celebrate Diamond’s unceremonious exit

Barclays Bank of Botswana Limited employees, who have on numerous occasions clashed with their executive management, were last week celebrating the unceremonious departure of their London headquarters chief executive officer, Bob Diamond, over a lending rate-rigging scandal that rocked the British Bank.

The British Bank was fined a record millions of dollars by U.S and U.K. regulators over manipulation of inter-bank lending rates.

The resignation by Diamond followed on the heels of Barclays chairman Marcus Agius who will, however, oversee Diamond’s replacement process.

The Botswana Barclays subsidiary employees are celebrating Diamond’s departure accusing him of failing to lend them support in their numerous altercations with the local executives on a number of employee relations matters.

Barclays Botswana has been embroiled in a number of altercations with its employees who have accused the management of high handedness in dealing with employee matters and plotting unpopular retrenchments in the guise of under performance by some sections of the employees.

The Botswana Banks Employees Union (BOBEU) sought Diamond’s intervention to no avail. The union further appealed to UNI Global Union (the mother body union for finance workers) secretary general Phillip Jennings who wrote the bank’s chief executive expressing displeasure over attacks on workers’ rights at Barclays Bank of Botswana Limited.

In celebrating Diamond’s departure, BOBEU secretary general Keitshokile Basuti, who is himself a victim of the redundancies at the Botswana Stock Exchange listed bank said it served Diamond right to unceremoniously resign his position at the embattled bank so that a new management is ushered in to bring better business practices and competencies.

In a statement, he said: “The reputation of the bank has been damaged and with regulatory breaches, the bank lacks credibility. It is scandalous and the bank must be judged by its actions,” said Basuti, who doubted if the scandal was confined to the UK and did not extend to Africa.

He said it is most embarrassing because the breaches were committed in the developed world where monitoring and regulations are tight with sophisticated systems in place.

“We were at odds with local Barclays management on issues of exit packages which we believe were manipulated because other African countries had better packages for their employees although they had more people leaving as opposed to here where fewer left with packages worse than in 2003,” said Basuti, who accused the local subsidiary of dismissing employees under guise of under-performance.
He accused Diamond of failing to intervene when the union sought his intervention during the retrenchments, which he described as “highly irregular”.

“Bob Diamond did not intervene. He did not care. We escalated our issues through UNI Global and got public relations response kind of “I do not care it’s ok” attitude. Barclays is just like that all over. They must change and employ the right people who will observe good business practices on employee, customer and employer relations”, said Basuti, adding that the buck in the UK scandal stopped with Diamond as the chief executive.

He lamented that unlike his colleagues who were retrenched, Diamond is better off because he stood to pocket a hefty package while in the Botswana context, employees were dismissed and left almost empty handed.

While the employees celebrate Diamond’s departure, a former Barclays employee who preferred anonymity said the charges laid by the regulator are going to take a toll on the remaining employees who will be called upon to indirectly cover it.

“Profit targets for subsidiary operations are going to be revised upwards to cover the penalty imposed by the UK regulators. In as much as the remaining employees are rejoicing, they must take note that they will be made to sweat and cover up that expenditure. This is a business driven by high profit margins and an indirect method will be devised to cover up for the penalty. It is a strategy that the bank has been engaged in for years of ensuring that profitable subsidiaries subsidize strained operations,” said the former banker.

He added that while chief executives at Botswana level have in the past been unceremoniously shown the door, the UK scandal demonstrates the enormity of the general rot at the bank, which needs to be cleaned up.

“If you thought the problem was in Botswana, now you have a better picture. It is global. We just hope the authorities will dig deeper and clear the mess in the banking industry before it leads to another economic crisis which will hurt smaller operations and economies,” said the former banker.

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