Tuesday, February 12, 2013

ANZ Bank Exploiting Workers Fiji Unions Claims

"The ANZ Bank in Fiji has been accused of using an anti-union decree by the coup installed military government to exploit its workers."

Fiji ANZ CEO Vishnu Mohan with Fiji Dictator Bainimarama
Radio Australia News

It comes from Parmod Rae, national secretary of the Fiji Bank and Financial Sector Employees Union. He tells Bruce Hill that the interim governments' essential industries decree disallows trade union representation for workers in economic sectors deem vital to the national interest, and banks are taking advantage of this

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Parmod Rae, national secretary of the Fiji Bank and Financial Sector Employees Union

RAE: It's not just the ANZ Bank, that is one of the four commercial banks, so the same thing applies to them, to the rest of the other three banks. But ANZ's behaviour has been far more brutal and ruthless than the other banks. Under the Essential National Industries decree workers of the four commercial banks, the only four private sector institutions to be included under the decree, have really been marginalised. 

All their terms and conditions of employment contained in the collective and other agreements, negotiated over the last 40 years, have all been declared null and void. The workers are working in a vacuum. 

The main labour law, the Employment Relations promulgation, does not apply to them so they don't have any of the protections of collective bargaining, freedom of association, freedom from discrimination, freedom to organise; all of these have been removed. Some employers and ANZ included, are taking advantage of that situation. 

External, what I call external unions, really industry unions like Fiji Bank and Finance Sector Employees Union, where we represent workers throughout the financial sector, are not allowed to represent workers in these listed corporations. The workers must represent themselves. What that has created is a kind of a huge vacuum of representation. These workers are not used to representing themselves, they are neither professionally nor psychologically geared to front up to professional human resources personnel from foreign … such as ANZ. So there is really a marginalisation of these workers. What we have attempted to do is to help the workers set up their own bargaining units. Now we did this successfully in ANZ and had one such unit registered under the decree. However ANZ campaigned very vigorously to have that de-registered. Subsequently some six months later the ?? was registered.

But in the meantime of course ANZ had imposed a number of changes to working conditions and made 40 of the lowest paid workers redundant, and that in the face of record profits that it made last year, in the face of a huge, around the six-million dollar tax windfall that it's going to see this year. And … socially unconscionable action of making these laws to make workers redundant. And of course in our estimation the workers have been short-paid their redundancy entitlements.
HILL: So your union doesn't actually, it's not allowed to represent those workers, but my understanding is that those workers are still members of your union officially?
RAE: The workers, at least in ANZ to a man have remained members of the union. They have not left the union in droves, which had been the intention of the decree to by-pass the union. So the workers have remained and I have remained in hope that this decree will go away and we'll be back in a position where they'll be strongly represented.
HILL: So effectively what's happened is the union's not allowed to represent the workers in the banks, but when the workers try to organise their own committee that was de-registered. So you're not allowed to represent them, but when they tried to represent themselves, that was stymied as well?
RAE: That was stymied and it took a long time, because ANZ was trying to dictate to the workers representatives the manner in which it will give the recognition, it wanted certain positions excluded, even after the workers had agreed to exclude those positions, they still went ahead and got them de-registered. And … literally forced the workers representatives to agree to a description of the unit … to recognise.
HILL: What effect is this having on the bank workers?
RAE: Well they feel very insecure, they feel marginalised. And the reality on the ground is of course they remain loyal members of the union and they think the union still represents them, because they keep coming to me asking me for advice or counselling for representation. And it's really hurtful for me to tell them that look, I am prohibited by law under pain of severe penalties to do anything for you. So it's a catch-22 situation for them.

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