The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the National Assembly’s passage of the South African Postbank Amendment Bill. This lays the foundation for a state bank geared towards ordinary consumers, in particular the poor and marginalised. It will also provide a sustainable way forward for the embattled Post Office.
Many workers, the poor, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, those living in informal and rural areas and other vulnerable persons have long been redlined by the mainstream commercial banks leaving them unable or struggling to access banking and financial services. Our banking and financial sector is rife with anti-competitive and monopolistic behaviour, a tendency to milk consumers with excessive bank charges, exploit banking workers with slave wages, and an ambivalence towards supporting job creation and local investments and procurement.
The South African Postbank Amendment Bill lays the foundation for the full operationalisation of the Post Bank. This is critical if it is to be allowed to enter the banking and financial services sectors. This will help inject competition into sectors needing a shake up. It will help workers and the marginalised access banking and financial services. The Postbank with its symbiotic relationship with the Post Office, will help to repivot, stabilise and grow the Post Office and ensure disadvantaged communities can once again access and rely upon its services. The Bill is a welcome step forward in building a state bank aimed at consumers and SMMEs.
Whilst supporting this long overdue and progressive Bill, if it is to meet its developmental objectives, then government will need to give the necessary support, including recapitalisation, and the appointment of competent management for the Postbank and Post Office to grow and to thrive. Equally government institutions need to support the Postbank as an institution of preference for government banking needs.
The South African Post Office has been in financial freefall for many years now. This has caused the retrenchments of many postal workers and seen their wages not paid, increases not given, and medical and pension funds payments deducted from workers’ wages but not paid to those funds as legally required.
COSATU welcomes the R2.4 billion provided for in the 2023/24 Budget for the Post Office. However, it needs to be accompanied by a clear turnaround plan that can ensure that the Post Office can be stabilized, repivoted and set on a sustainable path. This needs to be based upon expanding the range of products that it offers consumers; including courier services, access to SASSA payments and other government services. It should not be based upon retrenching nearly 4000 employees and slashing the wages of the remaining 9000 employees by 40% as these will only serve to send these workers and their families into absolute poverty and collapse the Post Office’s capacity. The Postbank and Post Office cannot be sustained by empty chairs and demoralised workers.
COSATU urges the National Council of Provinces to move with speed to pass this progressive and long overdue developmental state Bill into law.
Issued by COSATU
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