International solidarity has the power to reform the banking industry
Financial workers from the United States and Australia are standing together to curb big banks’ abuses of employees and customers.
Former Wells Fargo personal banker Kilian Colin recently travelled Down Under to help the Finance Sector Union’s (FSU) drive to reform the Australian banking industry. The union wants to expand protections in retail banking and eliminate unethical pay structures that do not put customers’ best interest first. The Wells Fargo example provided a cautionary tale.
Colin, a leader in the U.S. Committee for Better Banks, testified as part of an Australian Senate inquiry into consumer rights in the banking sector. He told Senators that Wells Fargo’s unreasonable sales goals caused widespread consumer fraud—including the establishment of more than 2 million fake accounts.
In addition to the harm these practices had on consumers, paying excessive fees and damaging credit scores, Colin said the stress from Wells Fargo’s relentless push for sales drove him to depression and even a suicide attempt.
FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano sees parallels with Wells Fargo and what is happening in Australia. She stated that a growing number of FSU members suffer from stress-related medical issues because of arbitrary sales targets. Some have contemplated suicide or have taken their own lives.
There is "frightening parallel" to Wells Fargo in terms of the practices of many Australian banks, she said, adding the situation calls for greater whistle-blower protection and compensation.
In addition to the Senate hearing, Colin’s visit allowed the FSU and the Committee for Better Banks to share ideas and organising tools. Colin returned to the U.S. excited to communicate with his colleagues what he learned.
“This exchange is a key component of the work of UNI Finance Global Union. Ten years on from a global financial crisis that brought the world economy to its knees, we cannot accept the continuation of sales practices that contribute to financial instability. Their continuation underlines that we have a long way to go change the banking culture of sales at any cost,” said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings.
“Changing the global financial sector will rely on a global labour movement, working together across borders to stop unsavoury practices that have devastating impact on workers and customers,” Jennings added.