In 2012 Unite took part in a European Union funded project aimed to provide trade unions in the finance sector with an improved enhanced appreciation of the impact on workers of employer responses to the crisis and an opportunity to develop a pan-European approach to social dialogue and collective bargaining. The full report can be found here in English, French and German. The executive summary is below the full report.
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Building trade union capacity for Social Dialogue through the provision and analysis of change within the European Finance Sector
This project aimed to provide trade unions in the finance sector with an improved enhanced appreciation of the impact on workers of employer responses to the crisis and an opportunity to develop a pan-European approach to social dialogue and collective bargaining. Although gaps still exist in the data collected and its geographical coverage, the research has identified a number of distinct strategies by employers with the sole objective of creating a more compliant and flexible workforce and, at the same time, replacing social dialogue and collective bargaining with the imposition of change through unilateral decision making. The following points represent the key findings of the research:
Increased labour flexibility
Employees are expected to demonstrate more loyalty, for example by working unpaid overtime, but at the same time employers have significantly more discretion to broaden the range of tasks their employees are expected to undertake.
Increase in stress
Finance workers are more frequently under greater pressure to meet targets, the levels of which were less likely to have been set through joint discussions. This view was shared by a number of questionnaire respondents, one of which remarked that “there is an even higher pressure [on workers] to achieve targets” and a “willingness of employers to dismiss for underperformance.”
Intensification of work
In their responses to the questionnaire, and through their participation in the debates at the conference, trade unions frequently made reference to the changes in work intensity and this was deemed particularly so since the onset of the crisis. Without doubt, according to union representatives, employers are today demanding more work from their workforce to be performed within the same working time.
Reduction in wages, bonuses and other benefits
As the crisis has evolved employers have sought to reduce costs and, given their relative size as a proportion of overall business expenditure, labour costs have been the focus of this process. Many workers have seen their wages fall or, for the more fortunate, frozen and this experience extends beyond the basic wage packet to other monetary benefits. Throughout the crisis the wages of the sector’s workforce have risen less than those for workers elsewhere, despite the sector’s healthy profits.
Undermining Social Dialogue
Finance employers are constantly seeking to undermine social dialogue and collective bargaining by unilaterally determining new employment practices for their existing employees. Companies and employer organisations has become tougher when it comes to negotiations, and are using the fear of the crisis as a for lowering expectancies and, subsequently, salaries. Employee acquiescence, as a result of high levels of job insecurity, has ensured very little resistance from the workforce as employees fear for their jobs. The long term interests of the sector and its workforce can only be achieved within a framework of collective bargaining, which is why Unite and UNI Europa Finance are fully committed to preserving and strengthening collective bargaining structures throughout the finance industry in Europe.
National governments, or in some cases with the support of the Troika, have deliberately undermined collective bargaining and therefore have implicitly supported the attacks on workers by employers.
Creating an unsustainable finance sector
Finance companies, through their attempts to erode terms and conditions of employment are threatening long term sustainability of the sector, both in terms of its role as a provider of financial products and a chosen career for younger workers entering the labour market. The public’s perception of the sector is also being damaged by the retrenchment from rural areas of bank branches, which is having a negative effect on local communities by denying local banking services and its associated benefits.