The banking halls of Equity Bank South Sudan went empty yesterday after national staff went on strike leaving customers wondering about what transpired in the bank ranked “The Best Bank” in the previous Chamber of Commerce Quality Awards.
The staffs from all Equity Bank branches in Juba City gathered at African Park to demand what they said were their rights and welfare. They carried banners with slogans like “take care of us and we will take care of your clients” “Our right is our rights, Review our medical cover, no work on Saturdays,” among others.
The staff who snatched keys to the banking facilities threatened to continue the strike for three days or more if management fails to address their grievances.
Dominic Oyo, one of the staff who spoke to media on behalf of the national staff decried how the management had neglected to address the grievances of the staff despite being served with memo on several issues.
He said the memo delivered to the top management of the Bank seems to have fallen on a deaf ear as management failed to respond to it since 13th of January.
“We will continue to strike until our demands are met. We had reminded the management to take care of the employees in order to take care of their clients, but they had not been answering us. Ever since the devaluation of the currency, we had raised the issue that our salary should be raised based on the multiplier effect of six” Oyo said.
Another member of the staff Meribah Rachel blasted the management for failure to consider the welfare of the staff. She said it was important for the management to understand the condition that the staffs are going through following the devaluation of the currency.
“We are going to continue our strike for three days or more until the management respond to our cry. We have copied all legal authorities the memo on our grievances including the ministry of labour and we need our demands to be met sooner than later” she stressed.
There was no official respond from the management of Equity Bank of South Sudan. Peter Kitheka, Head of Marketing in the Bank attempt to cool down the situation yielded no fruit as the staffs refused to appoint representatives to dialogue with the management at the Equity Bank headquarters.
Kitheka who asked the staff to dialogue with management left disappointed as the staff insisted they could dialogue with the management at South Sudan African Park in Juba.
This is yet another development after the Central Bank made decision to float the exchange rate. The decision has resulted into hikes in commodity prices and increased level of poverty.
In the memo raised to the management seen by The media, issues of devaluation of currency were raised that warrant increase in salary. The staff argued that the salary could be payable in US Dollars instead of in pounds that has so far lost value.
“There was no communication on how we were going to be paid since every economic variable has changed in the market after currency devaluation up to date. Therefore we demand our salary to be converted from SSP to US Dollars using an exchange rate before devaluation, or multiply our salary by the Devaluation Multiplier Effect which is equivalent to six” the memo reads in part.
Furthermore, the memo cited the need to review the contracts of the employees and the Bank Policy following the currency devaluation.
Some of the demands for the staff included the need to give paternity leave for seven days and maternity one for 90 days, the need to make Saturday work optional and payment for overtime.
The memo also highlighted the issue of reviewing qualification and remuneration based on qualification.
The memo also raised the issue of medical cover to be reviewed for both out-patient and in-patient and also acknowledging staff who got married traditionally, besides leave allowances review.
The staff resolved in the memo to form Equity Bank South Sudan National Staff Union to coordinate staff affairs with the administration.