Members of Barclays Management Staff Union (BAMSU) were last week granted temporary relief after they managed to temporarily interdict the bank from proceeding with disciplinary hearings against them.
BAMSU had filed an urgent application with the Industrial Court, seeking to interdict and restrain Barclays from continuing with disciplinary proceedings against them. While they conceded that disciplinary proceedings are an internal matter that cannot be lightly interdicted by the court, the managers argued that there exist exceptional circumstances.
The seven members of the BAMSU executive are Cecilia Modise (Acting Branch Manager-Carbo Prestige), Chakalisa Ronald Phuthego (Operational Risk Advisor), Beauty Thaga (Regional Manager-Branch Operations), Botho Disang (Corporate Manager’s Assistant), Josephine Morule (Service Desk Manager) and Sinikiwe Masalila (Rigour Manager).
They were recently slapped with letters of misconduct and failure to comply with the Bank’s Code of Conduct. Barclays alleged that the accused coordinated a meeting at which some concerned managers wrote a letter to the bank management and copied the same to external stakeholders on internal matters.
The external stakeholders to which the letters were copied are Office of the President, the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs and the Governor of the Bank of Botswana.
The BAMSU executives are accused of obtaining the attendants’ signatures by false pretences; in that the attendants believed they were signing an attendance register whereas the accused proceeded to use their signatures as an attestation for the letter.
“This act or conduct attracted negative publicity and had the potential to damage the brand and reputation of the bank. The bank views the above conduct seriously and has considered disciplinary action against you appropriate,” reads the charge in part.
Barclays had asked the BAMSU executive to show cause why they should not be hauled before a disciplinary panel, which they say indicates that Barclays had not made up its mind to charge them. They argued that the charges that were laid before them are in breach of their contractual right to have investigations against them instituted promptly. They also argued that they could not put up a meaningful defence as the facts upon which Barclays relied to charge them are too vague.
“Barclays has ignored our requests for them to address these glaring irregularities and thus afford us a fair hearing. The bank’s refusal to respond to our objections suggests that they are hell bent on proceeding with the hearings. They are inconsiderate and will stop at nothing to ensure that they end up dismissing us,” said the BAMSU executive.
They argued that the purported charges are prejudicial in that there is no explanation as to exactly whose signatures were obtained by false pretences. They also argued that Barclays breached their right to be charged within a reasonable time, as they were charged after 65 days. They accused Barclays of failing to inform them that they were under investigation, or when the investigations were concluded. Barclays also failed to furnish the BAMSU executive with a copy of the findings of the investigation.
The BAMSU executive shot salvos at Barclays Managing Director Wilfred Mpai, saying he has in the past threatened to fire all managers who signed the letter of complaint.
“We fear that Barclays will not even consider the objections we raised. It seems they will stop at nothing to have the trumped up charges confirmed at hearings, whose purpose is simply to dismiss us from work. Barclays is on a war path against its employees. If these disciplinary proceedings are not halted, our fate is dismissal, which unfortunately will be based on unlawful charges and violation of every available procedure,” they said.
They also argued that Barclays will not suffer any prejudice if the interim interdict is granted. They argued that they have no other alternative remedy.
“This application is made urgent by the fact that Barclays is intent on proceeding with the hearing and ignoring the complaints we raised. Also, we will not be accorded substantial redress by the Commissioner of Labour at mediation in due course. If we were to file an application in the normal course, the hearings would have long been concluded and we would have long been dismissed,” they said.
In the end, the two parties came to a consensual agreement, in which the interim interdict was granted while BAMSU withdrew the urgent application. Each party will bear their costs of the suit.