Unions fight for Global Agreement with banking giants
Unions from around the world, representing 20 countries in Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia, have gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as UNI Finance launches an historic global effort aimed at improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of bank workers.
This is a bold initiative to form alliances and fight for a global agreement with two multinational banking giants—HSBC and Santander—both of which have greatly expanded their operations in recent years to span the globe.
As these banks expand into countries where the corporate culture and legal environment do not respect or enforce human rights and/or the right to freedom of association, it becomes ever more important that they ensure these rights are applied and respected across their operations. Inconsistencies in labour practices by the banks will not escape the watchful eyes of UNI Global Union’s network of Finance unions. The UNI Finance global campaign has been formed as a result of the banks’ behavior and double standards in denying workers these rights.
HSBC has vigorously opposed the efforts of its employees in the U.S. to choose a union, something that would not be tolerated or accepted in most of the markets in which the corporation operates. Such behavior is at odds with many of their commitments, including the rules concerning freedom of association embodied within the Equator Principles.
“All Santander and HSBC workers throughout the world should have the right to join a union without opposition from the employer, and to be treated with fairness and respect,” stated Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “These banks should be leaders in all respects. They should promote and practice ‘good values’. A global agreement with both of these banks would help ensure union rights and raise standards in the banking industry.”
HSBC, based in London and Hong Kong, is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations, with operations in 88 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. As of press time, HSBC continues to decline requests for a meeting with UNI Global Union.
“Workers at HSBC want the company to respect union rights and provide fair pay and benefits at all its locations all over the world,” said Oliver Roethig of UNI Finance Global Union. “However, the bank’s refusal to meet with UNI Global Union sends a strong message that workers’ rights are not a priority for HSBC.”
Santander, the second largest bank in the world, is headquartered in Spain. The bank is increasingly a global leader in the finance industry with an important position in the Americas, in addition to traditional operations in Europe. Santander has begun to have local conversations with unions regarding the unions’ concerns.
“We are pleased that Santander has agreed to engage in conversation with us,” said Rita Berlofa, head of the Sao Paulo Bank Workers’ Union. “This is a good start, and we are hopeful that we will soon begin serious discussions that will lead to the signing of a global agreement to address our concerns and help guarantee the bank’s commitments to social responsibility and labor rights.”
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