The Guardian June 14, 2000


CBA staff reject lousy 2%

Thousands of Commonwealth Bank staff went on strike last Friday when 
negotiations between the Finance Sector Union (FSU) and CBA management over 
an enterprise bargaining agreement broke down. After 43 meetings over the 
past five months, management's lousy offer of a two percent per year pay 
rise and a risky performance scheme that would actually drive wages down, 
staff finally ran out of patience. Around 70 percent withdrew their 
labour.

A critical staff shortage is also at issue, which the management tried to 
cover up during the strike by bringing in casual labour and contractors for 
the day.

"The strike action has had overwhelming support, not only from Commonwealth 
Bank staff but their customers throughout Australia", said FSU National 
Assistant Secretary, Peter Riordan.

"We estimate some 70 percent of staff have taken industrial action sending 
a clear message to the bank that it has to start listening to its staff and 
treating them fairly."

The union asked for public support from the bank's account holders.

"After all, customers are the ones forced to stand in long queues and pay 
higher fees for less personal service." Some staff have been abused by 
people who are angry when they can't get served.

If accepted, management's pay offer would result in staff being the lowest 
paid of all the major banks. The union points out that Commonwealth Bank 
workers are responsible for the CBA's more than $2 billion of profits in 
the last 18 months.

Branch closures have compounded the decline in services. The present 
treatment of staff, high fees, branch closures and poor customer service 
are the logical outcome of privatisation where the drive for profits has 
overridden any social responsibilities.

"Everyone is getting a fair share except staff and customers", said Mr 
Riordan.

"Two days [before the strike] CBA's executives made millions from their 
stock options, the managing director got a pay rise of 33.5 percent and the 
CBA directors' fees are rising by 50 percent. All staff want is a 6.5 
percent per year pay rise to keep them level with other banks."

He said the workers are hoping the bank will now start being reasonable and 
return to the negotiating table "otherwise more industrial action is 
likely".

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