|Issue No 6||26 March 1999|
Mergers Wave To Hit Insurance Industry
Finance sector workers are bracing for a wave of mergers in the insurance industry which they fear will undermine job security and affect their ability to serve the public.
Following on the heels of a series of bank mergers which transformed that industry into one of overwork and precarious employment, the mergers of big insurance firms like FAI and HIH is seen as the start of a similar process.
Already employers in an industry which has been characterised by secure, full-time jobs are employing more part-time and casual workers.
And with big unions like that proposed by AMP and GIO on the horizon, the Finance Sector Union fears large-scale job cuts are on the agenda.
FSU assistant secretary Kirsty Campbell told Workers Online the union was working with its membership to resist the excesses that accompanied the mergers in the banking sector.
"All mergers are about economies of scale," she said. "They're a cost cutting exercise which places the interests of the shareholder above that of the staff and the general public.
"We've seen the effect of mergers and takeovers with banks, with closures, queues and higher charges. The insurance industry has a very big challenge ahead. That challenge is how to address the needs of staff and customers in the face of the demands of shareholders."
The FSU is mobilising to meet the merger challenge, helped by their own integration of banking and insurance sections.
"I think a lot of the lessons learned during the bank mergers will be helpful in the insurance sector too," Campbell said.
As a first step, the FSU is looking at its own performance and has released the results of independent polling of insurance workplaces conducted in February which highlights the Union's high profile, but indicates more organisation is needed.
Key results included:
- 75 per cent of insurance workers surveyed believe that most or everybody is aware of the FSU
- 78 per cent had recently seen a bulletin from the Union
- but only 52 per cent were sure they had an FSU rep in their workplace.
"The survey results confirmed that we need to organise on the ground more in insurance," said Campbell, who has primary responsibility for insurance workplaces.
The results demonstrated a demand for more workplace visits by FSU Officials (47%) and for more written information (55%) - results the Union will act on.
"It certainly backs up our decision to provide more resources for insurance organising, and we are already seeing the results." says Kirsty.
Among recent wins are new commitments from GIO to job security protections and to enterprise bargaining - commitments which have taken years to secure.
None of this is news to GIO employee, Robert Mills: "Given the massive changes in our industry, the best way to protect my job and conditions was to get organised with other FSU members. We got the backup from the Union office, and it has made a real difference."
The survey also showed a wide range of insurance employees joined the Union, and that attitudes towards the FSU were similar across ages, salaries and lengths of service. The survey will be repeated in May to test the impact of new communication and service strategies.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005