Friday, March 23, 2012

Ex-Goldman employee stages Japan protest

While we are not in the habit of using full articles from major papers I thought this was interesting from the Financial Times/. Goldman Sachs has a lot of disgruntled former employees.

March 22, 2012 2:59 pm

By Michiyo Nakamoto in Tokyo

Goldman Sachs has faced a bizarre protest by a former employee representing what he claims is a union for the bank’s former and current staff in the country set up after a round of job cuts.

Wearing a mask and using a pseudonym to hide his identity, a man purporting to be a representative of the Goldman Sachs Japan Employee Union held a press conference with foreign journalists on Thursday in Tokyo.

The National Union of General Workers, a multi-industry labour group, has confirmed that the Goldman union was set up under its umbrella. It has not disclosed number of staff who are members or the identity of the man holding the press conference.

“We are fighting for our jobs,” said the man, using the pseudonym Adam Lee. “This mask represents the faceless entities that you find ... The nameless faces are just ... something that they crunch, like a number ... When they want to downsize, they cast aside these nameless faces.”

The protest highlights the tensions that have arisen as investment banks have cut large numbers of jobs in Tokyo and are expected to begin another round of redundancies, according to several bankers.

The dispute at Goldman stems from a restructuring exercise in August last year when the bank asked those staff who were losing their job to sign a voluntary resignation agreement.

Unilateral terminations are extremely difficult under Japanese law so companies frequently pursue a policy of persuading employees to accept “voluntary resignations in poor economic times or even when individual performance issues exist”, according to the National Union of General Workers, or Nambu.

While most people signed the agreement, a small number refused to do so and formed a union under Nambu, according to Mr Lee. Nambu, which has a 2,500-strong membership, represents workers from small and medium-sized companies as well as foreign institutions.

“This is not the first time that Goldman Sachs employees have come to us for advice, but [what was unusual was that] this time three people came at the same time ... from different divisions,” said Yumiko Nakajima, Nambu general secretary.

While the union members are seeking to win their jobs back, Mr Lee claimed it was Goldman’s heavy-handed manner that has moved them to hit back.

“If it had been more dignified, if they had come to me and asked me if I would consider voluntary termination, I would have considered it,” said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee said he was first told that his job was being eliminated. Only after he refused to sign the voluntary termination agreement was he told that he was being dismissed for poor performance.

Additionally, he says that after he was shown the door, his belongings were sent to him cash-on-delivery. “I found that really insulting,” Mr Lee said.

Goldman Sachs said in a statement: “We are currently in discussions with the National Union of General Workers over a termination dispute. We are negotiating in good faith.”

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