Our working lives have been transformed by the COVID-19 virus. After a slow start in managing the crisis, thoughts are now on the new economic and social world.
We have seen the government do some of what is needed – including listening to experts in health, the public service, and at times the trade union movement. All the old excuses – it’s too costly, it’s communism – disappeared when the government found $200 billion in a week for JobKeeper and introduced free childcare across the income spectrum.
Yet, as history has shown, the struggle will be to hold onto these gains.
Newstart needs to stay above the poverty line. The Ensuring Integrity Bill must be binned – how can we go back to debating this bill when front-line workers have borne the brunt of this crisis? They have bravely and at great personal risk turned up every day to care for patients, stack shelves, deliver goods, serve customers, and clean our hospitals.
The Coronavirus crisis has exposed a number of problems with Australia’s economy and politics. We have become over-reliant on overseas markets for much of our manufacturing. We’ve been left with a lack of medical equipment needed in this global crisis with overseas markets disrupted. Australia has an opportunity to rebuild our manufacturing base in critical areas and publicly invest in our institutions, educators and infrastructure. We have also discovered the cost of our over-reliance on casual labour.
There is concern, despite CEOs of CBA and NAB both making public comments about saving jobs, that the COVID-19 pandemic has given finance sector organisations cover to bring forward plans to close branches and restructure their organisations. NAB and ANZ have telegraphed their intentions to restructure and close branches.
The FSU has consistently advocated for an end to the off-shoring of jobs and for the creation of a tri-partite body (government, union, and employers) to develop a comprehensive plan for secure jobs in the finance sector. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has developed an 8-point plan to rebuild the Australian economy. The foundation of the ACTU’s plan is the creation of two million new jobs. The plan can be read here.
The FSU has been consistently advocating for an end to the off-shoring of jobs and for the creation of a tri-partite body (government, union, and employers) to develop a comprehensive plan for secure jobs in the finance sector. Workers should be retrained before their jobs are disrupted or lost via skills identification programs. Workers who are provided skills for future roles within or external from the finance industry will be better placed to find meaningful ongoing work as the industry changes.
The FSU believes there should be a national skills framework and a national accreditation of qualifications with standards over seen by a tri-partite consisting of workers, industry, and government.
A national skills framework will support employees in identifying avenues for career progression and assist in identifying other employment opportunities. Recognising skills in a transparent manner will assist in developing remuneration frameworks free of conflict and focused on providing good customer outcomes. Industry agreements can provide a transparent and formal structure for recognising skills and qualifications through classification structures. These ideas are further explored in the FSU’s Blueprint document. Read the full policy document here.
In some European countries, banks have adopted union ideas to begin skills training funds. Singapore has set up an Institute of Banking and Finance, in partnership with the financial industry, government agencies, training providers and trade unions. The institute was set up in the 1970s to foster and develop the professional competencies of the financial industry and is the national accreditation and certification agency for financial industry.
The FSU supports an industry wide system of professional qualifications for recognition of finance workers’ skills and experience including:
- Recognition and accreditation of prior learning and experience.
- Formal qualifications including certificates, diplomas and degrees.
- National accreditation of qualifications, with standards overseen by industry, government and workers.
Health & safety and the return to work
Bank staff have been declared essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and have been performing a variety of roles on the front lines throughout the pandemic. Banking and other financial services play critical roles in our economy and society and, given the size of our country, physical access to financial services constitute an essential service in regional and remote areas.
The FSU is supporting the wider ACTU OHS campaign and will be also be actively working with employers to ensure a safe return to work for all our members. Our WHS laws aren’t what they need to be so we need to pull together a campaign to try and get parliament to legislate some changes – there are nine different jurisdictions (federal/state/territory) and none of them have laws that protect all workers, particularly vulnerable workers.
The key asks on parliament are:
- All workers to have a statutory right to access paid pandemic leave
- Compulsory notification of both exposure and infection
- Employers be required to take all practical steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19
As states and the federal government start to consider relaxing isolation measures which have been controlling the spread of COVID-19, it is essential that the following reforms be made to keep people safe as they return to work.
- Paid pandemic leave for all workers who have reason to believe that they might have contracted COVID-19. This would allow all workers who believe they may have the illness to get tested and if necessary and take additional time to recover. This entitlement can be provided for 90 percent of workers by the Morrison Government, but states and territories will be essential to ensuring universal coverage.
- A legal obligation on employers to protect their workers and their customers by implementing the highest practical standards and controls for their work, such as physical distancing, to prevent workers from being infected and stop the virus from spreading. This will require new regulation from state, territory and federal governments.
- Compulsory notification to local health authorities and work health and safety regulators in all states and territories of any cases of COVID-19 infection that may have been the result of work.
These reforms must be legislated before any relaxation of isolation orders in order to keep working people and the community at large safe from a second peak.
You can help take by action by reporting your workplace if it's unsafe here.
The FSU has been on the front foot since the beginning of the pandemic contacting finance sector organisations with a list of demands focused on worker safety, you can find this information here.