Workers’ money, workers’ future – Pension funds as a tool for trade union power

Workers’ money, workers’ future – Pension funds as a tool for trade union power

Trade unionists from the finance sector worldwide gathered in Buenos Aires on 3-4 June to establish how to best use pension funds to build union strength.

Pension funds are major players in the global economy with more than US$60 trillion of assets under management. They play a role in shaping our global economy and determining what responsible corporate behaviour could look like.

More than 70 participants met for the UNI Finance seminar “Workers’ Money, Workers’ Future” in the Argentinian capital, hosted by UNI Global Union’s finance affiliate La Bancaria.

While pensions should first and foremost safeguard workers’ capital and retirement, pension fund work by trade unions should maximize opportunities to promote collective bargaining, gender equality and diversity, to ensure pension funds are sustainable and an investment in a social-centred future.

“We must make sure the standards are not just words, not just ‘green washing’ nor ‘social washing’. All the major finance multinationals are involved with pension funds, let’s hold them to account,” said UNI Finance President, Anna Maria Romano, from Italian union FISAC-CGIL-IT.

“It is not just about environmental sustainability but also social sustainability, inclusion, and human rights. We need to advocate for the workers – and prove that we are competent. We are experts in our own right,” she added.

The seminar addressed the problems of securing pension capital, with many workers’ paying the price for bad investments. “Many workers were left with almost nothing after private pension funds were introduced in Argentina,” said Sergio Palazzo, General Secretary of La Bancaria and President of UNI Americas Finance. “We had a failed experiment with private pension fund management companies.”

This situation is echoed in Brazil, where postal workers are fighting to claw back US$2 billion in lost pension funds with BYN Mellon in the U.S.

UNI’s Director of Business and Human Rights, Lisa Nathan, works with the Global Unions’ Committee for Workers’ Capital (CWC), an international labour union network for dialogue and action on the responsible investment of workers’ capital.

“We put a lot of attention on how pension funds use their influence on the companies they invest in to hopefully drive-up corporate standards,” she said. “UNI also acts to build channels with pension funds to listen to union voices and to advance their understanding of labour rights.”

Angelo Di Cristo, Head of UNI Finance, said:

“This meeting has begun a journey to increase the knowledge of pension fund management and to pinpoint ways trade unions can shape investments to improve workers’ rights, diversity and inclusion – and that funds are not only invested responsibly but also wisely.”

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