Business: Solidarity Appeals to Banks for Pamodzi Employee Support
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The trade union Solidarity yesterday made an urgent appeal to the executive directors of South Africa’s four largest banking groups to take into consideration the ongoing salary crisis at the troubled gold company Pamodzi Gold and not to continue imposing penalties on employees for the late payment of debit orders. Solidarity made this appeal to Standard Bank, ABSA, Nedbank and FNB.
Meanwhile, Solidarity today heard that employees at Pamodzi’s Welkom and Springs mines will this week not receive their salaries, which should have been paid in today. This follows after employees of the group’s Welkom mine has still only received 70% of their salaries for February. These payments were made in small instalments. The late payment of employees’ salaries has meanwhile resulted in many employees’ debit orders being refused and exorbitant penalties being imposed.
In a letter to the directors of banks, Solidarity demanded that, in light of the current economic problems at Pamodzi, banks commit themselves to scrapping and paying back penalties imposed on employees for late payments in February and possible fines levied in March.
Solidarity also suggested to banking groups that, in future, they only impose a maximum fine of R5 per refused debit order per month. This suggestion stems from findings and suggestions made by the Banking Enquiry Panel of the Competition Commission in 2008. According to a study Solidarity did regarding this investigation, banks charge up to 23 times more for a refused debit order than the failed transaction actually costs them. It is shocking that banks impose these exceedingly high penalties because creditors have no claim against the bank and the bank’s reputation is not damaged by the unsuccessful transaction.
Moreover, these fines represent the only instance in the commercial world where one party can be found guilty of and be punished for “breach of contract” by the other party without the case ever having been heard in court. Solidarity maintains that banks are unfairly exploiting South Africans since more than 24 million banking fines are levied annually. In addition, Solidarity has also confirmed that penalties on cheque accounts at FNB have an unlimited maximum, while other banks impose a fine of between R75 and R115 per refused debit order.
“Banks in South Africa are committed to reimbursing clients, in deserving cases, for fines imposed on refused debit orders. The Pamodzi situation is not only a deserving case, but also an extremely urgent one. Employees are already struggling to put food on the table, and are now also carrying the added burden of unnecessary fines on refused debit orders that are in no way their fault. Solidarity members are very concerned about the effect this will have on their credit records. Just last week, when the interest rate was cut, Standard Bank indicated that the bank had ‘great empathy’ with clients who are experiencing financial strain. Now is the time to put their money where their mouth is and support these clients,” explained Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans.
Solidarity has already established an emergency aid programme in the Welkom and Orkney communities and, by means of Solidarity Helping Hand’s Emergency Fund, the trade union has started distributing food and basic supplies to employees of the group. The Fund has already been supporting families of Pamodzi employees for the past three weeks. Call 0861 25 24 23 to make a donation to the Emergency Fund.
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