By Kiran Sury
Cries of “solidarity forever” rang outside Citigroup headquarters Tuesday, where bank workers and advocates from around the world protested against the working conditions of American bank employees, which they said were worse than those of their global counterparts.
“I was looked upon as a bad seed,” said former bank employee Robert Freeman who declined to name the bank he worked for, who felt pressure from management for being outspoken. Banks often required volunteering during working hours, he said.
“It looks like you have this great unity, but people are forced to go because they are afraid they will lose their job if they don’t,” he added.
Freeman was the only American bank worker at the demonstration.
“The image [of Americans] is rich worker, many rights, but the reality is different,” said African union leader Noomen Gharbi. “It’s not normal.” Gharbi, of Tunisia, said the banking industry needed a partnership between manager and workers.
“I know we have better banks in Tanzania than the United States,” said union representative Francis Assenga. He cited collective bargaining and paid maternity leave as examples of basic rights that American bank workers lack.
The report, released by the left-leaning advocacy group called the Committee for Better Banks alleges that American bank workers have lower compensation, worse benefits packages, and fewer job protections than foreign workers.
A Consumer Banking Association spokesman has dismissed the report as inaccurate and said the cross-country comparisons were invalid.