Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Unions clash with banks

A war of words has erupted between the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEPUSU) and some local financial institutions, with the federation accusing the banks of refusing to assist their members who are finding it difficult to service their loans after government deducted their salaries.

“Our members are currently facing financial difficulties because of the no work no pay rule. It is disheartening that some banks still refuse to accede to our requests for assistance,” said Justin Hunyepa, Executive Secretary of Botswana Sectors of Education Trade Unions (BOSETU).

On June 28th, BOSETU wrote a letter to Standard Chartered Bank, asking that the banks freeze interest rates for the month of June and July as their members will not be paid.

“The federation has a membership totaling 100, 000. We request your bank to assist our members by freezing interests in June and July. We further request that you should not repossess any of our members’ property if they fail to pay monthly installments. The situation we are in is really challenging but temporary,” said Hunyepa in the letter.

Hunyepa said in spite of this, Standard Chartered Bank has since disregarded their requests and ignored numerous requests for an audience.

“Standard Chartered Bank is still refusing to meet with us. Meanwhile, our members are complaining that customer service staff at the bank refusing to assist them, even going to the point of informing them that it was their personal decision to go on strike,” he said.

He added that the bank is disregarding the fact that BOFEPUSU members have been loyal to local banks, and remain willing to promote the growth of that relationship.

“I have attempted to speak to the Customer Service Manager of Standard Chartered Bank, who referred me to the Credit Control Manager, a Mr Setlhabi. Up to now they have not responded to our numerous phone calls and emails,” said Hunyepa.

BOSETU has since informed their members to report any uncooperative financial institution. In fact, uncooperative banks stand at risk of losing out to their competitors as the unions have struck a bailout deal with some banks.

“We will close down our accounts with the uncooperative banks. The challenges facing our members are only temporary. They are a result of a legal and protected strike. We will not sit down and watch our members being treated with disrespect and contempt by the very banks that have over the years enjoyed our profits and support,” he said.

Mpho Mosojane, Customer Service Manager at Standard Chartered Bank, said management is addressing the issue.

“This is a national crisis and it has to be approached from a very high level. Such decisions cannot be made by front office employees. This is a legal issue,” Mosojane said. ”We have contracts with individual BOFEPUSU members and they have to make personal agreements and undertakings with the bank. We cannot just waive charges and installments holistically because we have no agreements with the unions. This has to be treated on a one on one basis,” she said.

Mosojane referred further enquiries to the Head of Legal Affairs, who could not be reached by the time of going to print.

Recently, First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) denied allegations that it had embarked on a loan freeze against striking civil servants.

“The Bank has not taken any position to freeze applications for loans by any public servants. Every loan application is assessed on its merits,” said FNBB’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Bomolemo Selaledi.


Read this week's paper