Fides Bank Hauled Before Labour Commissioner

Fides Bank Namibia, currently the only micro finance bank in the country, says it has no official response to the allegations of unfair treatment of retrenched workers made by the Namibia Financial Institutions Union (Nafinu). The bank however said it has scheduled a meeting with the union during May, which the union confirmed.

Nafinu this week accused Fides of having a “colonial mentality” after plans were revealed to provide 35 retrenched workers at the bank’s Katutura branch with a severance package of around N$500 each.

This package was however increased to approximately N$2 500 after the retrenched employees rejected the initial offer. “We have rejected this absurdity with the contempt it deserves and will fight till the bitter end for justice in this matter. It is interesting that the bank is citing ‘financial constraints’ for not paying reasonable packages, yet the chief executive officer is receiving a monthly salary of around N$150 000,” lamented Nafinu president, Sylvester Kabajani. He added that the total retrenchment package for the 35 employees is “a mere N$73 000”, which is about N$76 000 less than the CEO’s monthly salary. The case has been referred to the Office of the Labour Commissioner. Kabajani also alleged that the bank is employing foreigners at exorbitant rates while these positions can be filled by locals at lesser salaries. “This sick tendency of financial institutions importing labour when Namibians can do the jobs is a national disgrace and should be stopped forthwith,” said Kabajani. Fides Bank recently announced the closing of its activities in Katutura, saying they were too “costly” to develop and have not yielded the expected socio-economic impact on its clientele. The operations proved to be economically unsustainable. The bank opened its Katutura branch in November 2012 with the aim to offer financial services to micro entrepreneurs in the area.

“This downsizing of activities in Katutura will improve the sustainability of the bank as a whole and is therefore necessary to safeguard the jobs of employees. [But] it will inevitably require the bank to downsize its task force in this branch. The management of Fides Bank is currently exploring retrenchment options and all other possible avenues to achieve this in the most acceptable way for all parties, in close cooperation with Nafinu ,” said CEO Karin Everding at the time of the announcement. The bank acknowledged there was no sustainable space for its financial services offering towards the low-end market of micro entrepreneurs in Katutura. This forced Fides Bank’s governing body to decide to withdraw from this market segment and concentrate its efforts on northern Namibia that is said to be developing well and contributing to putting the bank on track towards financial stability.

“It is clear that the retrenchment is a result of poor planning and incompetence on the side of management. We are disappointed that so many workers were affected by the retrenchment exercise. We are equally disappointed in the senior management of the bank who seem not to know what they are doing. They completely failed the workers,” remarked Kabajani. The union also expressed dismay at how the bank treated workers, saying the financial institution was “insensitive” during the retrenchment process. Kabajani alleged that retrenched workers were treated like “criminals” and were asked to stay home after they received notice of termination of their employment as the bank feared they might steal company property if they were allowed on the premises. “They were restricted from setting foot on the premises of the bank. The security guards were given strict orders not to allow the retrenched employees into the bank,” added Kabajani.

Source : New Era