Collective agreement for financial sector comes to a standstill

Previously a sign of importance when an employee was recruited by a bank, the mobile phone has become the enabler of modern slavery in the financial sector.

“The boundary between the professional life and the private sphere tends to disappear. People do not rest at the end of their working day and this can have big consequences on their health, “said Gabriel di Letizia, president of the LCGB-SESF trade union during a press conference on Wednesday.

When discussing the impact of digitalisation on the employees of the financial sector, president di Letizia and secretary-general Vincent Jacquet referred to the 2016 annual report of the Luxembourg-based association for occupational health of the financial sector (ASTF).

In 2016, the number of psychosocial examinations more than doubled in the Grand-Duchy, with 1,076 examinations recorded compared to only 470 in 2015.

In 2016, ASTF supported 160 workers suffering from exhaustion, the LCGB-SESF representatives explain, which marks “an increase of 49.5% following the spike in numbers by 84.5% already recorded in 2015”. Although the sample was small, the situation is alarming.

According to ASTF, mental disorders such as professional burnout, depression and anxiodepressive syndromes, which are partly caused by working conditions, are coming to the surface and have become recognised as a common problem of the sector.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” added the president of the LCGB-SESF union.

While no employee has been dismissed in Luxembourg due to a refusal to work outside of working hours, trade unions mention several cases of abuse.

For example, the manager of a bank created a Facebook group for his team members to keep in touch at all times.

Another union representative tells the story of employees’ long daily schedules when working with the Asian, European and American markets and the impact this has on their social and family lives. A third example shows a manager contacting a member of his team on social media, after failing to receive an answer to his email.

While the press conference held by LCGB-SESF was underway, the OGBL trade union was at the labour ministry, deploring the situation and lobbying for the same rights for the employees of the local financial sector.

Unions demand the right to disconnect from work to be respected, a framework to be put in place and training to be organised for employees and managers.

Because in practice, it’s very difficult for the employee to tell his manager to wait for the following working day.

Which is why LCGB representatives advocate for the introduction of disconnection periods during the week and on weekends, sending of warning windows to managers to remind them when they are outside of working hours, as well as delayed sending of emails, limited remote connection control or a limited use of professional smartphones.

On several occasions, the two men reiterate that the LCGB demands a “strict” application of the labour law concerning the working time of 40 hours per week, also for employees concerned by the ‘bring your own device’ policy for different issues, from work time to data privacy or the remote deletion of data from the employee’s private device.

ABBL remains silent

Working time is indeed one of the core issues that trade unions and the Luxembourg Bankers’ Association (ABBL) fail to agree on during negotiations for a new collective agreement for employees of the financial sector.

“Employers refuse to apply the law and to count the working time of their employees,” says Jacquet, who further explains that banks are recruiting more external experts, trainees and executives profiles – or rather false executives as between 35% and 40% of these employees don’t earn the additional 20% corresponding to an executive-level salary as stipulated in the collective agreement.

Through these types of recruitment and secondment, banks avoid paying employees 13th salaries and allow them to limit the annual leave allowance to 25 days instead of 34 as set out in the collective agreement.

In addition, banks would rather not count the working times and not pay for any extra hours worked by their employees over the period concerned, which generally lasts 6 months.

Whereas LCGB advocates for four classification groups, an automatic and dynamic salary increase system, a seniority bonus not limited to the longest-serving employees and for a 14th month-payment, ABBL talks about a fidelity bonus offered at the employer’s discretion instead of giving it to at least two-thirds of employees as it currently is the case.

While LCGB has completed its work in the four groups that were formed to discuss the future collective agreement, according to di Letizia and Jacquet the ABBL remains silent on the topic.

A meeting between trade unions will take place on Thursday afternoon, as requested by ALEBA, the largest union representing the financial sector.

The new collective agreement must be finalised by June.