StanChart: well, this is embarrassing

Chairman: "I made certain statements that I very much regret".

Standard Chartered's chairman has had to retract comments he made at a press conference two weeks ago, in a rather painful statement posted on StanChart's website today. During the press conference he refererred to the banks' US sanctions breaches as "clerical errors". This, it turns out, was also an error. Here's the apology in full. Ouch.

Released 08:30 21-Mar-2013

LONDON, 21 March 2013: On 5 March 2013, I, together with Chief Executive Officer Peter Sands and Group Finance Director Richard Meddings, representing Standard Chartered Bank (the "Group"), held a press conference where certain questions were asked concerning individual employee conduct and compensation in light of the deferred prosecution agreements made with the US Department of Justice and the New York County District Attorney's Office in December 2012.  During that press conference, which took place via phone, I made certain statements that I very much regret and that were at best inaccurate.

In particular, I made the following statements in reference to a question regarding the reduction of bonuses for SCB executives:

We had no willful act to avoid sanctions; you know, mistakes are made - clerical errors - and we talked about last year a number of transactions which clearly were clerical errors or mistakes that were made…

My statement that SCB "had no willful act to avoid sanctions" was wrong, and directly contradicts SCB's acceptance of responsibility in the deferred prosecution agreement and accompanying factual statement.

Standard Chartered Bank, together with me, Mr. Peter Sands and Mr.  Richard Meddings, who jointly hosted the press conference, retract the comment I made as both legally and factually incorrect. To be clear, Standard Chartered Bank unequivocally acknowledges and accepts responsibility, on behalf of the Bank and its employees, for past knowing and willful criminal conduct in violating US economic sanctions laws and regulations, and related New York criminal laws, as set out in the deferred prosecution agreement.  I, Mr. Sands, Mr. Meddings, and Standard Chartered Bank apologize for the statements I made to the contrary.

Sincerely,

Sir John Peace

Chairman

Standard Chartered PLC

 

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.