Archive for the 'Stress' Category

The other side of target bonuses

targetsThe recently released proposed new sales targets at BNZ have one aspect that has not attracted much discussion so far, and it is probably because it is so normal that we take it for granted.   So let’s take a second look.   Why do the bonus payments go so high? – up to 400%.Let’s take a look at sales targets for Banking Advisers for example.   A BNZ Banking Adviser at 100% of her or his salary earns $47,743 before getting any incentive payments.

But it is possible for her or him to earn a further $28,000 in incentive payments if she or he sells 400% of their target.

$28,000 on top of your salary sounds fairly good.   Good that is until you realise that the bank has just got the equivalent of four people’s sales done by paying just over 1.5 salaries; a saving to the bank of $115,000 if you follow our logic.

A Banking Advisor who ‘merely’ does the sales work of two people saves the bank nearly $36,000.

Finsec believes the BNZ’s strategy to increase profits at the moment is working because workers do not realise how much free work they are doing for the bank.   Currently many do a second, third or fourth person’s sales job at a fraction of the cost that it could cost the bank to hire new staff.We all know targets keep increasing to drive greater sales and profit for the bank.   When you add increasing targets to decreasing staff levels over recent years you create extra workload. Targets are placing significant pressure on staff to sell more and more products in an increasingly competitive and tight market.

(thanks to chadmill for the photo)


How would you define ‘serious harm’?

StressThe Minister of Labour has called for a public review of the definition of “serious harm” in the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

This is important because the definition of serious harm defines, among other things, the significant hazards that employers must manage, the illness and injury that they must report to the Department of Labour, and the work that employees may refuse because it is likely to cause them serious harm.

In 2002 the law was amended to made explicit that stress and fatigue must be managed like any other hazard, and that a fatigued person is a potential hazard at work.

But unions have argued that the existing definition of serious harm is concerned only with physical injury, at the expense of psychological or mental harm. This is inconsistent with the recognition given to harm caused by work-related stress.


Finsec is making a submission to the Department of Labour on this issue and we need to hear your views. We would like to hear in your own words how you personally would define stress, fatigue or serious harm at your workplace. We only need one or two of sentences each, but we want to hear from lots of you. Email us or leave a comment below by April 27.

(thanks to DailyPic for the photo)

Finsec leader appointed to government’s new health and safety council

Andrew Casidy and Carol BeaumontMinister of Labour, Ruth Dyson, has this week appointed Finsec’s General Secretary, Andrew Casidy, to the new Workplace Health and Safety Council.

He joins CTU Secretary, Carol Beaumont (both pictured), occupational health and safety manager from the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association, Paul Jarvie, and 2003 Pacific Business Leader of the Year, Paul Raea.

The Council will provide advice to the government on workplace health and safety matters of national and international significance. It will also advise on ways to progress the implementation of the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy. Casidy believes that workplace health and safety is a vitally important issue, not just for workers in jobs that have traditionally been seen as dangerous or risky, but also for many office workers facing the dangers of workplace stress, and OOS.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’ve got a big job to seamlessly integrate the existing laws on workplace health and safety and all the other bits and pieces that protect workers, but if its done right it can be good for business, in terms of productivity as well as for workers’ safety.”

Understaffing creates stress in Westpac branches

StressFinsec organisers are reporting an increasing number of health and safety problems in Westpac branches, particularly related to workplace stress. These incidents have three things in common; they are often happening in rural branches, they are often being exacerbated by the pressures of sales targets and understaffing, and the bank is often compounding the problem by responding slowly to concerns when they are raised.

One of many such examples is the case of Abby Hemopo, who was made redundant from her role as a consultant at Pahiatua Westpac branch. Abby is currently taking a personal grievance against the bank with the help of one of Finsec’s legal organisers. Abby is alleging that as a result of the bank’s acts and omissions she has suffered stress-related ill-health including sleep deprivation, nausea, and anxiety. Due to additional duties and constant disruption at work without a concurrent reduction in targets, Abby has lost an opportunity to earn performance related bonuses and pay rises, and has now been made redundant.

There are a range of issues in Abby’s case, which is still yet to be heard, but one issue for her that many workers face was understaffing and overwork:

“The problem was that such a small branch had a manager leave and three experience team members all take parental leave in a short space of time. Our branch only had two people with experience out of six. I was pulled here, there and everywhere helping everybody out, and my own role was suffering,” said Abby.

Abby and her colleagues raised their concerns formally with the bank about the stress and pressure they were facing on regular basis between December 2005 and August 2006 when Abby was diagnosed as having work-related stress.

“They [the bank] did not listen, they were not interested in listening. There were all sorts of excuses afterwards. Well, we did tell them. It’s not our fault if they did not take us seriously.”

Abby took stress leave. But when she came back she found she was being made redundant following a review that found her branch had not been performing and recommended disestablishing her role.

“The reason I was made redundant was because of them, not because of me. I paid the price for their poor management. I think it is appalling. They say ‘we want you to tell us, we want a healthy environment’, but they were absolutely disinterested.”

The bank is now trying to resolve Abby’s case, and currently there is some constructive dialogue. However to ensure this happens in other cases, people need to speak up when they see concerns. Just because workplace stress is becoming more common does not make it acceptable. All employers are required to get rid of the causes of stress on their workplace when notified of them. Sales targets, understaffing and overwork can all be causes of workplace stress. If you think it is a problem on your worksite contact you local Finsec organiser to collectively organise a solution.

“The bank has a responsibility to make sure our work environment is safe.”

(thanks to Memory Motel for the photo)

BNZ’s health and safety audit

SuperjenBNZ is about to be audited on its health and safety practices. BNZ is audited each year by an external ACC Auditor as part of the ACC Partnership Programme.  BNZ is legally required to speak to its workers during the audit in order to get open and honest feedback about how they feel things are going. And this will be done through focus group meetings over the next couple of weeks in meetings at Auckland worksites.

We believe that there are significant health and safety issues at BNZ. So we need as many BNZ workers in the Auckland area as possible to volunteer to attend these meetings

Sure, people aren’t being injured by heavy machinery, but many workers are faced with overwork, pressure and stress.  Workplace stress, if not dealt with is a serious medical condition, which can result in long-term health problems such as depression, ‘burnout’ and heart disease.  All workers have a right to a healthy workplace without the risk of stress, injury or disease.

In December 2005 Finsec commissioned independent research company, AssessSystems, to measure the level of workplace-related stress within BNZ and to find out the causes of that stress. The research showed very high levels of stress compared to normal workplaces.

1 in 4 respondents at BNZ find their work very stressful and 1 in 20 respondents are extremely stressed by their work.

The research showed the causes of stress related to factors that are unique to the BNZ, rather than just being normal stress that all workers experience. The biggest causes of stress were: use of scorecards, performance targets and pressure to sell to customers.  And  understaffing.

(Thanks to Malik M.I. Williams for the photo)

Westpac Lending Support team challenge understaffing

Lending SupportFinsec Westpac members from the lending support and loan assessment areas at the Canterbury Centre have had a gutsful of understaffing on their site.

The issue first arose when Finsec’s Christchurch Office took lots of calls saying that the bank’s new system of allocating timings to everyone’s core tasks had significantly increased many people’s workload and stress. A meeting on the worksite quickly confirmed that this was a widespread problem. The bank had been using the new timings to calculate the number of staff needed in each department and was constantly moving staff from department to department – sometimes to areas they had not worked in before.

The situation has become so stressful that some staff have ended up in tears at the end of the day. To enforce their right to safe staffing levels Finsec members all wore barcode stickers last week saying “Person”, highlighting that they are people, not numbers. They have also collectively written to the bank demanding extra staffing to resolve this issue.

Congratulations to the Bank of New Zealand…

trophy…which was named the nation’s best contact centre in the CRM Awards last week.

BNZ call centre workers won the award for the bank because of their excellent customer service, answer time, ease of access, product knowledge and operator attitude and efficiency.

BNZ General Manager Direct Sales & Service, Susan Basile says this is an award that the whole team can share:

“It is an achievement that our whole team can share. This award is due to the outstanding work our people do every single day. This is a challenging business and to do well you have to love what you do. My entire team thrive on serving customers, and constantly look for ways to improve the customer’s experience.”

Independent research released earlier this year suggests that BNZ staff got this result in a manner that meant not all staff ‘loved what they did’. The research showed that many of these same workers were the most likely to experience high levels of stress (43%). The research showed that some of the things most likely to cause stress to BNZ Call Centre workers were unrealistic performance targets and measurement of quality, constantly being micromanaged and under scrutiny, and the emphasis on customer satisfaction and shareholder returns at the expense of staff morale and wellbeing.

Basile states “Not only do our team know all about banking, but more importantly, they know how to make our customers feel special, every time they call.”

Let’s hope the bank’s appreciation for its team will extend to ending their dangerous workplace stress.

(thanks to Straußer for the photo)

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