by Sharon Tawuya
Harare (New Ziana)-At least 321 bank workers were retrenched between 2020 and 2021 while a further 119 are set to be laid off this year as the sector embraces digital transformation, amid calls to retrain staff to take up new roles to avoid layoffs.
Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (Zibawu) secretary general Peter Mutasa on Thursday told New Ziana that automation of banking services would result in the laying off of more workers in the future.
“From 2020 and 2021 a total of 327 permanent workers were retrenched. This excludes many who were on fixed term contracts who lost employment too,” he said.
“We have started the year with bad news of 119 Steward Bank employees who are being retrenched now,” he added.
In a memo to workers early this month, Steward bank said the push towards digital banking had informed the decision to lay off staff.
“Following the successful deployment of our new core banking processes and the investments we continue to make in our digital transformation journey, Steward Bank has embarked on a retrenchment exercise to rationalise staffing levels,” it said.
Mutasa described the digital revolution as “a difficult period for workers”.
“Firstly we are lobbying authorities to take this shift seriously and come up with policy interventions. This shift is not just affecting workers but the whole nation. Government revenues, employment, social security and many other challenges need policy considerations.
“Secondly, we are also encouraging workers to upgrade themselves in order to acquire new skills that can match the new requirements. Unfortunately, because the nation is not ready also for the changes that are happening, the opportunities and information are limited. We are also negotiating with employers to develop programs for upskilling and reskilling of the workers as alternatives to retrenchments.
“The union is also coordinating the formation of workers’ cooperatives for workers to establish entrepreneurial ventures as teams for sustenance in case they lose jobs,” he said.
Bankers Association of Zimbabwe Ralph Watungwa said banks had the task to train workers to catch up with latest digital trends.
“The types of jobs that become available are those that are more qualitative which relate to talking to customers- sales roles, those are still there. Financial advisory roles are still there and potentially software development becomes new jobs that get created because of the migration which is not specific to banking. It’s a trend that is across all sectors.
“Banks will have to ensure that the people who are now moving into new roles which are replaced by automation are retrained to be able to deal with the new environment,” he said.