Expat workers in finance facing stress-related health issues

by Ray Clancy on October 17, 2013

Expats working in the banking and financial world could be facing health worries as a new survey identifies concerns over fear of unemployment, pressure and psychological abuse.

International banks often move key staff around the world and expats also tend to find jobs in the finance industry but an unstoppable wave of change is affecting the health of workers and even creating a personal health crisis, according to the survey of finance workers in 26 countries by UNI Finance, a global union for the banking industry.

Analysis on the effects of job losses and working conditions on bank workers since 2011 found that more than 80% of banking unions in Europe reported deteriorating health as a major problem for their members.


Over 80% of banking unions in Europe have reported deteriorating health as a major problem for their members

Stress was a key factor, with workers reporting unfeasible sales targets, lower salaries, and having to complete the same workload with fewer members of staff. Anxiety over job cuts was also high, partly due to a trend of replacing older workers with younger, lesser paid staff, often on temporary contracts.

‘This is a crisis that has affected us all in so many ways. While we are rightly pointing the finger at bank owners for their role in the crisis, there are millions of honest, hardworking finance employees whose working lives have been ruined by the unstoppable wave of changes affecting their industry,’ said Marcio Monzane, head of UNI Finance.

‘Hundreds of thousands of jobs have, and continue to be, lost. The pressure on staff to deliver with tighter human resources is immense, and it is being reflected in the deteriorating health and lifestyle of bank workers worldwide,’ he added.

Half of the unions surveyed said members had complained that their personal life is under considerable strain. The IBOA union in Ireland reported staff were facing ‘unrealistic targets at all levels without consideration to the financial climate’.

A recent report by Statec, the national statistical institute in Luxembourg, found that psychological harassment is highest in the banking sector, affecting 12% of employees.

Job losses are accelerating in seven European countries including France, the Netherlands, and Greece, as well as in Asia, the Americas and Africa, the report found. But losses are slowing down in nine other European countries such as Ireland, Spain and the UK, but from a very high level.

The report identifies a number of key trends taking place within the sector that are placing excess pressure on workers. They include widespread restructuring in the wake of the financial crisis, more pressure to sell financial products and jobs being off shored and outsourced.

Those in particular fear of losing their jobs included front line, back office, and IT employees and overall many finance workers reported deteriorating health. ‘Reaching the target is not enough. Supervisors send emails giving the names of those who failed. I fear I will have a heart attack soon,’ said a worker at an international bank’s call centre in Brazil.

‘More generally, clients are coming in starting fights with the bank employees over their mortgages or debts. There is not enough security for employees. Sadly, clients who feel financially abused are turning against basic front line employees instead of staging a protest in front of bank owners’ houses,’ said an employee at a Spanish bank.

UNI Global advocates for a fairer approach to restructuring, limiting payments to shareholders and doing the utmost to preserve jobs in the financial sectors. Collective agreements between global unions and multinational banks, the union says, are a good way to ensure workers are treated and paid workers fairly. It regards raising standards in recipient countries of off shored jobs through global agreements as a priority.


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