BNP Paribas signs commitment to expand workers' rights

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BNP Paribas has signed an agreement with a global workers union that promises paid parental leave, health insurance and union rights to all its employees worldwide, including those at the $89.5 billion-asset Bank of the West in San Francisco.

The global agreement signed with UNI Global Union also outlines the French banking giant’s commitment to promoting gender equality and diversity in the workforce. In an announcement, UNI Global Union said this agreement was the first of its kind in the financial sector to guarantee paid parental leave and health, life and disability insurance.

“This comprehensive and ambitious agreement confirms BNP Paribas’ international social commitment and its ambition to be an ever more responsible employer with regards to its employees,” Yves Martrenchar, head of human resources and a member of BNP Paribas’ executive committee, said in a press release. “It will contribute to improving the quality of life and working conditions within BNP Paribas, while being a source of performance for the group as a whole.”

Though bank employees elsewhere in the world may be able to unionize, labor agreements similar to this one are not common in the U.S. The $4.6 billion-asset Amalgamated Bank is one institution whose workforce is unionized, though. Its non-officer employees are covered under a collective bargaining agreement with the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153, according to a spokeswoman.

In recent years, some workers’ rights advocates have turned up the pressure on big banks, particularly in light of high-profile sales abuses that they say harm frontline employees, as well as consumers. The Communications Workers of America has been especially vocal in calling for big banks to let their tellers, personal bankers and call center staff unionize.

BNP Paribas’s agreement with UNI Global is not itself a union contract, and its employees would not pay dues or fees unless they form a union.
It does, however, give those employees the right to form a union without fear of retaliation by management.

BNP Paribas said it would apply the agreement over the next three years to its 200,000 or so workers worldwide.

Based in Switzerland, UNI Global Union is a global federation of service unions and represents around 20 million workers across 150 countries, including more than 3 million workers in the banking and insurance sectors. UNI Global has negotiated more than 50 global agreements with other multinational companies, including other banks, but this latest agreement with BNP Paribas is the first in the financial sector to guarantee insurance to employees.

UNI Global said in an announcement that it hopes BNP Paribas will be a model for the rest of the industry.

UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman said, “In the financial sector, it is particularly important for workers to have freedom of association and to raise the alarm on unethical practices, and this agreement is a model we hope other banks will follow.”

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