National secretary of the Finance Sector Union Julia Angrisano gave this speech at the CFMEU’s National Day of Action to Stop the Attacks on Workers on June 20. It was an inspiring speech that raiased some key issues affecting bank workers today.
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Comrades, I stand here today representing members of my union, the mighty Finance Sector Union. We stand in solidarity with our Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) brothers and sisters and with all the other unions represented here, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a bank teller or a concreter, call centre worker or a form worker, a branch manager or a labourer, the laws are broken for all working people.
We are living through a time when corporations and the very rich have become far too powerful and this has happened so quickly that our laws and rights that keep things in balance have not kept up.
Today Australian’s are less secure in their work, living costs are rising, it’s harder than ever to get a pay rise and protections and rights for working people are just not strong enough.
While working people are grappling with these challenges, big corporations and the very rich use their power to rewrite the rules in their favour.
The bosses are making inroads with sustained attacks on penalty rates, Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) terminated and a minimum wage that no longer acts as an effective safety net.
When the CBA, Australia’s largest and most profitable bank, making almost $5 billion in half-year profits this year, can set up a business model geared to avoiding paying superannuation to low paid finance workers, mainly women — the system is broken.
When a credit union seeks to terminate its EBA and tells its workers “trust us you’ll be better off”, when in fact they stand to lose close to 20 conditions if the workers revert to the award — the system is broken.
When a money exchange company, a company owned by a massive and highly profitable multinational, can seek to change the award that covers its workers so they are no longer covered by the industry award, which pays penalty rates for working weekends, and have now offered new employment contracts that refer to the retailers award so it can undercut pay and conditions — the system is broken.
Friends, this company is seeking to cover its workers by the same award that was subject to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision to cut penalty rates. This award coverage issue has the potential for being the “tip of the iceberg” as other bosses will look to follow. UAE Exchange is leading the race to the bottom.
How do they get away with it? It’s because the system is broken.
In each of these cases, we have very rich and powerful bosses who are re-writing the rules.
This bank can afford to pay superannuation.
This credit union can afford to pay allowances.
This multinational can afford to pay penalty rates.
But they have re-written the rules and exploited and abused the system.
What has [Prime Minister Malcolm] Turnbull done about this? Nothing!
Next month marks one year since the Turnbull government took office. During his time as Prime Minister, he has done nothing but look after the interests of his big-end-of-town friends.
Turnbull did everything he could to avoid a Royal Commission into banks. This is all about protecting his rich and powerful CEO friends and does nothing to address the cultural problems in banks that impact on bank workers and the community.
And at the same time, Turnbull set up the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). All of us here know the disastrous effect the ABBC and the Building Code will have on workers.
The Code has restricted what can go in an EBA. We can’t have union friendly clauses. At the very core of this Commission and Code is a government hell bent on taking away our freedom of association — the right to be in a union and to organise. This attack is not just on this is industry, it’s an attack on all unionists and workers all over this country.
The Code means that we can’t have clauses that encourage the employment of apprentices. If the union movement can’t be the voice of young people and encourage bosses to take up apprentices then many young people won’t get an opportunity to take on a trade.
The Code means that we can’t have clauses that require the bosses to look for local workers first. We know that unscrupulous employers will bring in and exploit cheap overseas labour, including 457 visa workers This Turnbull Government is a disgrace.
Comrades our fight today is against unjust and unfair laws.
It’s going to take each of us to stand up and fight back to demand a better deal; not just for us now but for the future.
Today we fight back for the next generation. I’ve got three little girls and I believe in a better system for them. I don’t want them to have to pick up whatever crumbs of power have been left behind by the bosses. I want them to work and live in a system where they are included and where there has been a realignment of power back to the collective.
Let’s work together to put collective power at the centre of the system instead of corporate power so working people have stronger rights at work.
Let’s use our strength in numbers an demand a better deal in our workplaces, in our communities and across our society.
I know we can, because when we use our strength in numbers through our unions to demand a better deal we always win.