How would you feel if you were one of the 6000 workers at National Australia Bank (NAB) who will be made redundant in order to cut costs?
You might have a family with small children, struggling to pay for the weekly groceries and bills, on top of the monthly rental or mortgage payments that you can barely afford.
You might also be wondering where you will find the next job. NAB has said they would create 2000 new digital jobs, but that does not mean 2000 of these workers will be redeployed to those new roles. Would another bank employ you? Up to 6000 of your colleagues could be applying for the same job!
How angry would you feel when you know that NAB made a profit of $5.3 billion last year. You might have been a model employee, working hard for years for NAB only to find out that you are just an expense item that they can toss out to the streets at any time.
NAB said that the redundancies and restructuring would cost $800 million but would mean $1 billion extra profit by 2020. From a brutal economic perspective, we are told this is the right thing to do: spend $800 million and you get $1 billion in profit at the end. In fact, capitalism rejoices in these types of strategies. I’m sure NAB’s CEO Andrew Thorburn is patting himself on the back for this move.
This is part of the problem: our capitalist society has made us accept these corporate decisions are the right thing to do. As the great Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci explains, we have been conditioned by our society to think and feel in ways that serve the dominant ideology, in our case the capitalist economic hegemony.
According to a recent Bloomberg article: “While banks have been automating workflows for decades, the process has sped up recently as technology becomes cheaper, labour costs continue to grow and consumer expectations around digital banking increase. The financial services industry is going through what manufacturing went through a couple of decades ago. The trend in employment numbers is clearly down for the foreseeable future.”
As explained in a recent Green Left Weekly article “Agile — the new approach for exploiting workers”, the move to “agile” ways of working is a new trend among banks and big corporations to squeeze more out of workers. Along with outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, bank bosses are using every option to creatively reduce costs, all at the expense of the worker.
National secretary of the Finance Sector Union Julia Angrisano said: “Once again, we are seeing a bank put technology and profits before people. NAB, along with the rest of the banking industry, has a long-term social responsibility to their workers. This is especially so in a period of intense digital disruption.”
NAB, along with all the banks and major corporations, is valuing its profits above people.
In reality, the future of work, in banking and other industries, is at stake. The question is, what do we do in the face of this warfare against our jobs?
A royal commission into banking is a good start, but should not be an end in itself. It should be the first step on the path towards nationalising the banking industry to take control back into the hands of workers and community members.
As well as these longer term goals, we need to fight back now and the only way we can do this is by working together, in our workplaces, each day, getting more people involved, building union delegate structures and organising ourselves for this ongoing battle against capitalism.
Green Left Weekly is a crucial tool to inform and inspire workers to get together to organise and fight back. But we need your help.
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