17 October 2017

CBA slammed over draconian social media policy

04 February 2011  |  14276 views  |  5 office workers

Commonwealth Bank of Australia is in hot water with labour unions over the imposition of a draconian new social media policy that severely curtails the freedom of expression of employees and their network of friends when corresponding over social sites.

The two-page policy - which was acquired by Australia's Business Spectator in December - says employees cannot "comment on, post or store any information about bank-related matters" or speak negatively about the company in public fora.

It also calls on employees to spy on their friends and report negative comments about the bank to their manager or the media and communications team. In addition, employees should terminate contact with friends who post disparaging comments about the bank on social media sites.

In an open letter to the CBA, the Finance Sector Union says the policy is not only discriminatory but that it also severely restricts employees' freedom of expression.

States the FSU: "We believe it (the policy) seeks to impose unreasonable restraints upon employees' use of social media channels and misrepresents employees' statutory rights and their contractual obligations to their employer."

After initially standing by its policy, the bank has adopted a more conciliatory tone following a stream of negative press comment.

It now says it will meet with the FSU and "will amend the policy, where it is considered reasonable to do so to ensure that all of its staff continue to be treated fairly".

Comments: (5)

Elizabeth Lumley
Elizabeth Lumley - Girl, Disrupted - Crayford | 04 February, 2011, 12:46

I am not sure whether 'draconian' is the right word for CBA's actions. I would guess that their employee policies do not differ that much from other banks (their's just got publicised - ironic, kind of). 

Deutsche Bank, although did not offer me access to their social media policy, did admit that they bar most employees from posting on social media while at work. 

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Paul Penrose
Paul Penrose - Finextra - London | 04 February, 2011, 14:38

Insisting that staff 'unfriend' friends who may have been less than generous in their comments about the bank seems a bit over-zealous to me.

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Matt White
Matt White - Finextra - Toronto | 04 February, 2011, 15:04

Somehow, I suspect this is only of interest to Finextra editorial staff but I've just checked the dictionary definition.

According to Chambers:

adj: said of a law, etc: harsh; severe.

So, yeah, CBA's rules are draconian.

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Elizabeth Lumley
Elizabeth Lumley - Girl, Disrupted - Crayford | 04 February, 2011, 15:07

According to the OED. Draconian mean 'unusual punihsment'. My point was not that the CBA was not harsh, but that my informed guess is that their policy is not unusual - it's just now public.

Hmmm, unfriending co-workers? Tempting... 

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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 07 February, 2011, 07:45

If it applies to its employees using their personal computers, social media account and Internet connections during their off-working hours, then CBA's social media policy does seem draconian. However, if it only applies for use of official infrastructure during business hours, it's only fair that CBA should protect its own interests. 

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