Zambia Union Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) have described as illegal the move by Cavmont Bank to declare over 100 workers redundant due to their operational restructuring.

This came to light after Cavmont issued a statement in which the Bank’s chief executive officer, Peet van Der Walt announced the financial institution was closing four out of its 19 branches to allow restructuring and performance optimisation.

But ZUFIAW secretary general Chingati Msiska insisted that the bank’s downsizing was illegal.

“I may not say the consultation was done or not done because I was out of the country; the information that I got was that they came to feed us in and we guided in accordance to how the law stands as regards to redundancies. So, as far as we are concerned, consultation is still ongoing, they haven’t exhausted the consultation. So, what they have done is illegal,” Msiska said in an interview.

“Because I was informed, Monday night, that they had even closed off! Closing off is not an issue, but laying off people and telling them to go on leave is illegal! So, whatever they have done, we are not in agreement with because we haven’t given any consent per say. Basically, what we needed to do was to agree on the package before everything else is done. This is what we have written to them so that they should follow the law to the latter.”

And Msiska appealed to government to come up with measures that would protect jobs in the sector even with the advent of online banking platforms.

“We would like to appeal to government to look at this issue critically as we do introduce these other measures that are coming in like mobile banking and the like because, basically, what we are looking at is a situation where the machine will be working, which is very unfortunate. And the government is pro-poor and also, they have been on record that they are also initiating the promotion of this employment in the country. But if we are seeing now the negative happening, then it leaves much to be desired,” he bemoaned.

He has further called for the introduction of punitive laws that will protect workers in financial institutions.

“I think there has to be controls. The laws should change and put in punitive measures that are going to protect Zambians because we can’t have situations where people are going to wake up and say: ‘we are laying off workers and closing these branches’ unless maybe the government says they take up those branches that are closed. Again, this is a very big issue that needs to be looked at, and to us, is a problem,” explained Msiska.