Euro-FIET finance section meets in Lisbon

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Euro-FIET held its annual meeting of representatives of European finance workers' trade unions in Portugal in May 1999. The main themes were globalisation and the consequences of the euro single currency. The event also gave Portuguese unions the opportunity to express their views on these issues.

The finance trade section of the European Regional Organisation of the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Professional and Technical Employees (Euro-FIET), covering the banking and insurance sectors, held its annual conference in Oporto, Portugal on 10-12 May 1999, around the the central theme of "globalisation and the euro". The conference essentially presented the trade union view of the future of the financial sector in the European Union.

The event, hosted by the Union of Bank Employees of Northern Portugal (Sindicato dos Bancários do Norte), examined the following topics:

  • the impact of the euro single currency and economic globalisation on the world economy and the financial sector. Special attention was given to competition in the financial sector and cases of mergers and takeovers.
  • the European social dialogue, with a special focus on banking and insurance;
  • European Works Councils and the revision of the EC Directive;
  • the European Central Bank, which was the subject of a special analysis by a Euro-FIET group that has been studying the subject; and
  • new forms of work in banking and insurance, especially call centres providing telebanking and telephone insurance services. Specific themes discussed included employee recruitment strategies, collective bargaining and continuing training and education.

On the "globalisation and the euro" theme, and with particular relevance to Portugal, in the opinion of one research economist, Daniel Bessa the euro has made the banking and financial sector more highly concentrated. Portugal has been witness to a reduction in stock exchange activity and financial operators have become increasingly active on international markets. To keep up with the pace, workers will require ever more specialised qualifications, and for this, they need training.

The secretary general of the General Workers' Union (União Geral de Trabalhadores, UGT) stated that the union membership rate in Portugal's banking sector is far above the national average and that the sector has deep roots in the pre-1974 labour movement. He also stated that:

  • there will have to be a closer ties between globalisation and cooperation. He made special mention of social clauses in international trade, based on ILO Conventions, regulations governing the free circulation of capital, and the need for increased cooperation among regions, in particular between Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking nations of Africa and Latin America;
  • it is crucial to step up social dialogue, negotiation and concertation at the national and European Community levels. Euro-FIET has played a fundamental role in this regard;
  • it is necessary, at national level, to ensure compliance with labour law and respect of the outcomes of collective bargaining, as UGT has done in issues regarding payment of overtime, observance of job category requirements, and the need to eliminate precarious work, especially when young people are involved; and
  • Portugal has moved toward abandoning a pay model that is based on low wages. There is a clear need for faster economic and social development. Although there has been above-European average growth, productivity has not gone up as much as could be desired.
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