UNI Finance: “Give workers a seat at the table to avoid Wells Fargo-type scandals”
In the aftermath of the Wells Fargo scandal, the US banking giant has announced that they will be removing sales targets in order to make sure that their employees are focused on the best interests of customers.
This concession comes after a campaign to change the banking sector carried out by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the Committee for Better Banks and UNI Global Union over the past 3 years.
Wells Fargo was handed the biggest ever fine (100 million dollars) by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after it was revealed that employees illegally opened over 2 million unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts in order to hit sales targets. Over 5300 employees have lost their jobs at Wells Fargo because of the scandal. While Wells Fargo is blaming the 5300 low paid front line workers for the scam it is refusing to recognize that many employees who did the right thing were terminated for failing to meet excessive sales goals or for speaking up about unethical sales practices.
UNI Finance says it is essential that workers have a collective voice and can represent their interests without retaliation. This will create an early warning system to sound the alert on bad behaviour. In order to build sustainability in the finance sector, it is necessary to have strong unions, collective bargaining and social dialogue.
“Exorbitant sales targets can take a huge toll on workers’ mental health and lead to desperation,” said Head of UNI Finance Angelo Di Cristo. “Forcing workers to meet excessive goals can cause dangerous bank practices. Eliminating product sales goals is a positive first step. “Bank workers should not be intimidated and scared to lose their jobs for standing up against an abusive and dangerous system. They have shown that it’s possible to change big banks such as Wells Fargo, and we hope that workers at other banks can follow suit.”
Oscar Garza, a former personal banker at Chase Bank, who spoke in a congressional briefing CWA, UNI and the Committee for Better Banks held in June, explains that they have been sounding the alarm about the harm that abusive sales targets can cause companies, employees and customers.
“The enforcement action and the decision to eliminate sales quotas for Wells Fargo are a victory for workers and consumers,” said Garza. “However, predatory sales targets are widespread across the US banking system – bank workers need a collective voice and protection against retaliation for whistleblowing. We will continue to organise to end the pervasive and out-of-reach sales goals across the industry.”
Khalid Taha, a former Wells Fargo personal banker who also provided testimony in the congressional hearing, told the New York Times that he received a multitude of complaints from clients about dubious accounts right up until he left the bank this summer.
“They warned us about this type of behaviour and said, ‘You must report it’, but the reality was that people had to meet their goals,” said Taha to the New York Times. “They needed a paycheck.”
US Senator Elisabeth Warren told Bloomberg news, “Something is badly broken at Wells Fargo. Even after the events of 2008, the culture at this giant bank is still about profits - even if it means cheating people and breaking the law.”
Speaking to the CEO of Wells Fargo at the hearing in Senate Banking Committee, the Massachussetts Senator said, “You haven’t resigned. You haven’t returned a single nickel of your earnings. You haven’t fired a single senior executive.”
“Instead, your definition of being held accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy P.R. firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.”
To organise interviews or for further information please contact:
Director of Communications at UNI Global Union
Direct line: +41 79 794 9709
Teresa CasertanoCommunications Workers of America