Stanchart salary wrangle rages on

HARARE - A three year-long wage dispute between Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe (SCB) and its managerial workers rages on with the employees recently seeking the Labour ministry’s intervention.

In a September 26 letter, SCB Managerial Employees Association (SCBMEA) lawyers, Maganga and Company, said the bank had selectively awarded employers a wage rise and in contravention of labour law.

The SCBMEA lawyers argue the bank disregarded the Work’s Council and proceeded to award managerial employees who were not members of their client a 30 percent salary adjustment while the same was not extended to managerial employee body members.

This, Maganga and Associates said, was done despite a dispute pending in the Labour Court in which the bank has appealed against an arbitral award directing it to honour a 52 percent salary increases effective March 2011 to SCBMEA members and any other managerial employee of the bank.

“We thus refer to your offices and request that the matter be set aside for a hearing into the complaints by our clients,” read part of the letter.

“The conduct of the bank is not only discriminatory but is in itself aimed at deliberately threatening the very existence of the union as an entity. The conduct of the bank is meant to cow our clients into withdrawing their membership from the union in exchange for favours from the employer, thereby weakening, threatening and destroying the trade union,” said the lawyers.

Furthermore, the employees argued both parties were members of the Works Council which clearly stipulates that neither party can unilaterally do certain things including the awarding of salaries without express consent of the other.

As such, said the workers, the bank has gone ahead and disregarded such provisions of the constitution and proceeded to take the law into its own hands.

Responding to businessdaily, SCB head of corporate affairs Lillian Hapanyengwi said the company had always maintained that it is willing to meet with union workers to discuss their concerns.

She said the issue would soon be resolved as the bank remains committed to the long-term interests of its staff and their families.

“As you are aware, the issue is currently before the courts and you will appreciate that for reasons of confidentiality, we cannot give more details on any pending litigation,” she said.

The bank has tabled a non-negotiable five percent salary increase across the board.

At the time, SBMEA also alleges the bank selectively awarded some managerial staff a wage rise in 2011.

In some instance, stretching as far back as 2009, managers were getting less than their subordinates.

According to the arbitrator’s findings and analysis which was not in dispute.

“It is ordered that the 52 percent salary adjustment awarded by the respondent to some managerial employees in July 2011 be effected starting from April 2011 and must be paid to all managers across the board. The avoidance of doubt, those managerial employees who were not awarded the 52 percent increment must be awarded same,” read part of the April 12 arbitral award.

“This award to be effected forthwith (and) cost of this arbitration to be borne by both parties equally.”

The management was then pushing for a 100 percent increment on grounds that it would translate to a minimum managerial salary of $2 175,16 when in actual fact an average managerial employee’s salary translates to a minimum$2 541,35 according to Zimstats.

The claimant’s further demand the increment was a mere pittance compared to the company’s profit performance of $8,3 million and $12,6 million in 2010 and the first half of 2011 respectively.

Last year, disgruntled SCB employees hijacked an interactive forum with the group’s African region chief executive Diana Layfield, turning it into a petition for better wages.

A video in possession of businessdaily revealed the workers met with the SCB boss at Harare Town Hall on September 21 to share views and experiences, but the platform became nothing short of a riot for better working conditions.

According to SCB staff, grade 10 employees were then earning about $300 despite an industry agreement that was meant to see the least paid bank worker earning around $575.

The $575 is slightly above the country’s poverty datum line which is just short of $510.

“I know that we clearly have a commitment to our customers and shareholders, but I think staff has not been at the centre of the bank’s attention,” said one worker.

“We have kept quiet during the difficult time in 2009 when we were being paid $100 because we knew things were tough, but right now things are picking up and we expect better treatment,” added another employee.

Layfield promised the employees a better working environment, saying that the bank prioritised its human capital.

“We have concluded a survey to see the industry’s bench mark and we have concluded. I do not want to pre-empt the results, but we have absolutely heard what you are saying and we are committed to having a fair and equitable pay settlement that treats our staff well,” she said.

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