Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Not a generous settlement then

People have images which help them to make sense of German hyperinflation in the 1930s. Workers being paid with shovelfuls of notes off the back of a lorry, for instance. My personal favourite has long been the man with a suitcase full of cash looking in shop windows for things to buy with it, who put the case down for a moment: when he turned back, the case was gone. The money, however, was dumped in a pile on the pavement.

The following report, culled from a Unite finance sector newsletter, has helped me at least to get some kind of a handle on Zimbabwe's current hyperinflation. (The red highlighting is mine.)

Protest to Standard Chartered Bank chairman over Zimbabwe sacking

Unite and UNI the Global Union has condemned Standard Chartered Bank’s chairman, Mervyn Davies, for not intervening to reinstate two union leaders sacked in the bank’s Zimbabwe subsidiary.

Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe dismissed two trade union leaders, the Chairman of the bank’s National Workers Committee, Mr. Peter Mutasa, who is also the Vice-President of affiliate Zimbabwe Bank Workers’ Union (ZIBAWU), and the National Secretary, Mr. Shepherd Ngandu, for carrying out their legitimate union duties of representing and communicating with the workers: a clear abuse of international labour standards.

Although the two employees have successfully appealed against their dismissal, the British-based bank chose to pay them damages and terminate their employment, instead of reinstating them.

The two employees were awarded seven and a half years salary, calculated in Zimbabwe Dollars at the rate applicable at the time of dismissal. Taking into account hyperinflation, the bank paid them USD 15 and USD 16 respectively.

The bank’s chairman has refused to intervene and considers the matter closed. UNI Finance demands that Standard Chartered Bank either reinstates the two colleagues without loss of pay or compensates them appropriately taking account of inflation.

“We strongly condemn the behaviour of Standard Chartered and consider that the company is failing to respect recognised union rights, resorting instead to victimising union leaders through unfair dismissals”, says UNI Finance head of department Oliver Roethig.

Rob MacGregor, of Unite and UNI-Europa Finance Vice-President, says: “Instead of acting like a leading company and a responsible employer, Standard Chartered is profiting from the political, social and economic hardship that Zimbabwe and its people are facing”.

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