Justice tempered

How the finance sector’s captivity to capitalist ethics violates workers’ ethical integrity and silences their claims for justice
Misconduct in the banking superannuation and financial services industry Banks and banking Business ethics Corporate social responsibility Capitalism Financial services industry Royal Commissions Australia
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This report identifies the powerful assumptions underlining the culture and practices within the finance sector that help weave a cloak of silence over the injustice and harm done by finance sector companies (or ‘entities’ in the Commission’s reports) to their own employees—a harm that mirrors the harm done to their customers and wider Australian society. While the Commission attempted to uncover the causes for the misconduct it found, this report argues the Commission’s explanation that greed was the root cause of misconduct has contributed to further disguising of the actual cause of injustice and misconduct.

Key findings:

  • FSU members’ experience of the ongoing conflict between the banking corporations’ ethic of tempered justice and union members’ other-directed justice ethic has revealed:
  • Ethical formation and identity play a key role in the workers’ self-understanding as human beings
  • Existing ethics training is of secondary importance to the banks priority of profit maximisation.
  • Finance sector employers’ disregard for workers’ ethics harmed respondents’ personal health and wellbeing, leading to deterioration in their mental health or a loss of morale at work

Four factors emerged for an FSU ethics program of holistic justice:

  1. The assumption that justice must be tempered for the sake of facilitating capitalism’s imperative to maximise profit may be challenged by a wider vision of what it means to be human at work.
  2. Ethical work needs to be upheld by a support and advocacy framework for workers to be whistle-blowers.
  3. A union peer support program may facilitate a culture of solidarity between workers with work-related injury or mental illness, and form a frontline for equipping workers to fight for justice for co-workers and bank customers.
  4. Ethics training will have a basis in praxis, strengthening workers collective processes of resistance and advocacy, and cultivating their interior reflective life to enhance their analysis of dehumanising and unjust ethical conflicts.



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