The Commonwealth Bank in Australia has been forced to rethink its social media policy after revelations that staff could be disciplined or even sacked if their friends criticised the bank on sites such as Facebook.
The move followed an open letter to the bank written by the Finance Sector Union. It branded the policy as “unreasonable” and demanded its withdrawal, claiming that the firm was trying to restrict freedom of expression. The union also attested that the policy breached the country’s Fair Work Act, which covers issues such as freedom of association and the right to participate in collective bargaining.
“A conversation about the colour of the tea cups at the workplace, who is winning the footy tipping competition, or what day of the week CBA employees are permitted to wear casual clothes are examples of conversations that would constitute a breach of the policy as it is currently worded,” the letter said.
The Bank’s policy indicated that personnel could not “comment on, post or store any information about bank-related matters” or speak in a negative way about the organisation.
Employees were also required to report any “inappropriate or disparaging content and information stored and posted by others”, including non-staff members, on social networking sites to their managers as well as help investigate and remove such content. If one of their friends posted negative statements, action could be taken against them.
The policy said: “Failure to comply with this policy is a serious disciplinary matter and may result in disciplinary action being taken against you, which may include the termination of our employment.”
Although the Bank initially defended its policy, it has now backed down, saying that it may be changed following discussions with the union next week. It said in a statement: “The bank will amend the policy, where it is considered reasonable to do so to ensure that all of its staff continue to be treated fairly.”
It continued that many customer issues and complaints that were raised via social media channels had been resolved through staff tip-offs and “we encourage our staff to continue to alert us to this feedback so we can provide customer support and outcomes”.