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Australian Union Mounts “Move Your Money” Campaign Following Big Bank Interest Rate Hike

CFMEU Members Rally for LGBT Rights in 2010

In Australia, a major union is urging its members to leave the big banks in response to a controversial raise of interest rates that seeks to protect bank profits. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has asked its members to move their money from ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac:

The push is a response to the big banks’ argument they need to protect profits by raising interest rates outside of official moves, a claim angrily rejected by the government.

The national president of the CFMEU, Michael O’Connor, said the union would urge its 106,000 members to ”send a message” to lenders that they were being held to account for their actions.

”We think their behaviour is not acceptable, from their hesitation at times in passing on the lowering of the interest rates by the Reserve Bank, to the salaries they pay, to the way they shoot jobs at the same time as they’re gouging their customers,” Mr O’Connor said.

The effort should be familiar to American progressives who have catalyzed and bore witness to a similar “move your money” campaign. In the wake of the Australian Reserve Banks announcing that bank funding costs had fallen in recent months, the rate hike seems particularly greedy and unnecessary:

The union backlash comes amid growing hostility between banks and Canberra, with the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, yesterday accusing banks of seeking to protect profits at all costs. ”The fact is that the ANZ and other banks have decided that they are going to keep their existing margins no matter what, keep their existing levels of profitability no matter what,” Mr Swan said on ABC Radio.

”What they have done is something that will make the Australian people very angry and they should therefore take the opportunity to look around and get a better deal.”

The CFMEU’s action is also a response to recent comments on executive pay by ANZ’s boss of Australian operations, Phil Chronican. He compared executive pay to that of professional athletes earlier this month:

Mr Chronican this month said Australians seemed ”proud” about sports stars’ hefty pay packets, but when corporate leaders were well-paid it was seen as ”excessive”.

Just another out of touch bank figurehead, it seems. And just another labor union willing to do the dirty work of taking big money interests to task.


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