The Guardian September 6, 2000


CBA pays no interest to its workers or customers

Friday last week, stopwork meetings around Australia of Commonwealth 
Bank (CBA) employees, members of the Finance Sector Union (FSU), endorsed 
their union's bargaining claim. They rejected the Bank's EBA offer, and its 
attempts to introduce non-union agreements and/or individual contracts. If 
the Bank fails to make a satisfactory offer by 5pm on Friday September 8, 
the members have authorised the FSU to implement further industrial action 
and an on-going public campaign against the Bank.

The CBA, once the "people's bank" but now a corporate giant with $2 billion 
annual profit that pays its CEO more per day than it pays its tellers per 
year, is moving to strip its total workforce of union protection, as a step 
to grinding them into utter exhaustion as corporate slaves.

A recent report by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology shows 
finance sector workers endure long hours, unpaid overtime, pressure to do 
more with less, high stress and less time to be with loved ones.

This is the outcome of a sector that denies it has any social obligation, 
other than to deliver dividends to shareholders and perks to directors.

More than 40,000 jobs have been lost in the finance industry in the last 
few years, while more than a million hours of unpaid overtime  equivalent 
to more than 25,000 jobs  is worked every week.

The Finance Sector Union, on behalf of its members, has sought an 
enterprise agreement (EBA) since the start of the year that includes a 13 
percent pay rise over two years and employment of extra staff to relieve 
understaffed, overworked staff of some of their workload.

The CBA's response was a two percent pay offer and a dodgy productivity 
deal, a position from which it refused to move.

Now it has made a "final" offer  individual contracts to all workers, in 
return for a 6.5 percent pay rise over two years. CBA states it is not 
trying to deunionise its workforce  it just wants to deal directly with 
its employees without "a third party involved"!

It also states it won't depart from current hours and conditions in this 
round of contracts but subsequent individual contracts may "involve changes 
to hours of work and wage packages that  calculated a total costing for 
employees' entitlements".

The FSU has pointed out to its members that those staff already on 
individual contracts with the bank don't get rostered days off, have 
unlimited hours of work, no paid overtime and no shift or annual leave 
loadings.

Already, in the previous EBA, the bank tried to take back rostered days off 
(RDOs).

The resolution passed by stopwork meetings demanded the provision of 
adequate staff to ensure that work is completed within core hours.

Members demanded a 6.5 percent across-the-board salary increase from May 
2000 and a further 6.5 per cent from may 2001 and that any performance pay 
system be in addition to these wage increases, and be fair and equitable.

Vital struggle

This struggle is vital for finance sector workers and "white collar" and 
"new" economy workers generally. The CBA and the big  banks are in an 
intense struggle for market share, and higher returns.

All their strategies involve automation and centralisation of services, and 
super-exploitation of remaining workers.

The FSU is part of a team of unions working through the ACTU to build 
membership in the "growth" sectors of the economy.

A central strategy in these highly productive sectors must be to actively 
move to reduce work hours  through shorter work days, more RDOs, longer 
holiday periods, etc  to combat the twin phenomena of "understaffing" and 
"over-work".

A tactical necessity is to actively restrict overtime as an ongoing 
industrial method, to reinforce to management the need to hire more staff 
to cope with work loads.

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Acknowledgements: Shorter Working Week Action Committee Newsletter

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