Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Julia Smith argues that one of the primary responses to the recent reports about banks exploiting consumers (and pressuring staff to carry out their plans) should be a drive to organize workers:
Banking is often viewed as an industry offering secure white-collar jobs with good wages. In reality, many non-management bank employees, including tellers and call centre workers, face the same issues as other non-unionized private sector service workers: precarious employment, low wages and stressful work environments.

In 2007, for example, workers filed class-action lawsuits against CIBC and Scotiabank over issues related to unpaid overtime. In 2013, RBC outsourced information technology jobs in Toronto to a multinational outsourcing firm from India, which meant that many Canadian workers lost their jobs. Over the past two years alone, banks have laid off thousands of employees, all while earning record profits. It's certainly no wonder why, as the CBC investigation into upselling revealed, many workers feared they would lose their jobs if they didn't follow management orders to upsell customers, even if they thought it was wrong.
Banks engaging in unethical and possibly illegal behaviour is neither new nor surprising; banks are primarily responsible to their shareholders and their main goal is to maximize profits. But the call for greater industry regulation, which usually comes from the public following these sorts of scandals, won't deliver the long-term, fundamental culture overhauls needed to fix the problem. Better protections for workers will.

As former president of the AFL-CIO Thomas R. Donahue once stated, "The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labour." Given that the public relies on bank workers to blow the whistle on unethical and illegal practices in the banking industry, a unionized and empowered banking workforce might be one of the best defences against unscrupulous bank tactics.
- Meanwhile, Erica Alini reports on the billions of dollars Canada loses each year to corporate profit shifting.

- Andrew MacLeod discusses the exorbitant price paid by British Columbia's Lib government for privatized health administration. And Bill Curry and Greg Keenan reveal the federal government's plan to pay four times the interest rate to private infrastructure investors that it would pay to borrow the same money directly.

- Finally, Trevor Hancock reminds us that the choice to do nothing about poverty is itself a policy decision. And Andy McNicoll points out the UK's trend toward social workers being charged primarily with restricting access to insufficient resources, rather than ensuring that citizens' needs are met. (And of course, that's exactly the model the Sask Party wants to encourage.)

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