A survival manual for trade unionists

Poster of the course
Poster of the course

On January 1, 2018, the European MIFID2 (Market in Financial Instrument Directive) directive entered into force. 

The EU Directive defines a set of rules for the regulation of financial markets and relations between distributors (sellers) of financial and insurance products and customers.

Italian banks had initially neglected it very much, therefore finding themselves seriously late at departure. The banks thought, for their own benefit, of passing the problem onto the employees by giving rough instructions. This led to a lot of nervousness among the workers. 

During the trade union meetings I understood how much tension the workers had in dealing with the new obligations. In addition to these complaints expressed in the meetings, many members contacted the union to ask how to behave. For these reasons I thought of proposing a trade union training on MIFID2.

The main goals of this training were defined as:

  • Illustrate the spirit of the EU Directive and its goals
  • Provide knowledge of bank workers and financial operators' tasks required
  • Explain workers' personal responsibilities in front of the law 

It was important to define the level of knowledge of the regulations in question, starting from the verification of the level learned from the compulsory training provided by the companies. This step was essential to understand the starting skills in order to work on the gap to be filled, thus giving a good service to our trade unionists.  

When MIFID2 came into effect, the banks, although with delay and reluctance, had begun to train employees. It was apparently not a union problem. However, attending union meetings in the workplace, I found that workers complained about lack of training and pressure from bosses. Our union leaders had great difficulty in understanding workers' complaints and gave them insufficient answers. From the workers' worries I understood two important needs:

  1. A need to know the new law well
  2. How to deal with undue companies' pressure

For this reason I proposed to national Fisac TU (Federazione Italiana Sindacato Credito Assicurazioni) a specific course on this new law but with a different approach: a survival manual. A vision of the law from the point of view of the trade unionist. My proposal for the course was accepted by the national Fisac, and I began to prepare myself. 

For a good start of the training it was necessary:

  • study the law in depth (I started immediately)
  • establish a collaboration with other trainers to be involved
  • find a room with about 30 seats, equipped with a projector and screen
  • fix the timing of implementation

I asked a very skilled trainer to help me manage the classroom and a lawyer trade unionist to talk about the legal risks. They both accepted without problem. My role was to design the whole structure of the training and conduct it most of the time. In our first meeting among us trainers, we asked ourselves several problems:

  • Was it right to get involved in such a delicate matter as compulsory training, which is the responsibility of companies?
  • Did we invade a field that was not ours?
  • Did we want to replace the company?

The risk of setting the wrong learning objectives was very high.

Discussing among ourselves, in the planning group that then organized and directed the classroom course, had the desired effect because, given our different attitudes and skills, - allowed us to focus on a specific goal which was:

  • to make the banking unionists understand about the risks of non-compliance with the MIFID2 regulations, so that they could warn workers about these risks.

Consequently, we focussed our attention not on detailed knowledge of the rules (it was not our job), but we focussed our attention on the need to monitor the correct and timely provision of mandatory courses by companies, and on compliance with the legislation. It was our duty to warn workers of the risks they were running.

Finally, after sharing the goals, we defined what we expected as learning objects:

  • enable trade unionists to assist workers about dangers of failing to observe the MiFID2 rules
  • prevent any offence, including civil and crime offence
  • be able to effectively lobby companies with these requests:

- provide workers with the necessary skills required by law 

- monitor the training of workers step by step.

During the followings days the three of us teachers had a meeting to decide how to divide the work and which methodology to use. We met for the first meeting to define the learning objective, the duration and the place to hold the course. We got it done in a couple of hours.

Before the course we met two more times to check the progress of the work. All other consultations were by phone or email.

The methodology, given the technical-operational content, was chosen basically taking into account the composition of the classroom: not full-time trade unionists, but trade unionists-workers who lived in the workplace.

Therefore, our interlocutors were workers and trade unionists at the same time. They therefore had the ability to assess the importance of compliance with the rules both as employees and as trade unionists. Consequently, the language used was both technical and unionist.

Planning this training we took into account that people had to go back to work on that day, so we didn't have a lot of time. 

That was the main reason to organise it for one day.

The interactive frontal lesson was chosen, with the help of slides (Slides) to fix the concepts through keywords and images.

Our expert trainer would introduce the topic and help us to manage the classroom. I would have spoken first, starting with a brief history of European MFID regulations from the first (2007) to nowadays. Starting from the knowledge of trainees I would have exposed the founding principles, based on the attempt to regulate the market. I had summarized in images the three key points of the legislation: what to sell, how to sell, who can sell.

The other teacher would have focused on the legal responsibilities in payloads on workers, on what you risk if you give in to corporate pressures for wild selling.

The publicity for the first edition of the course was made among the banking unionists, most of the same company, the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group. The course was organized by the union leaders of this bank. The topic at that time was very hot and there was a race for registrations, which exceeded our expectations.

The class was formed with 25 trade unionists from the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group, about half men and half women, between 35 and 60 years old. 

This was due to the fact that initially there was little awareness of the importance of knowledge of the rules in question, especially on the part of the company, while the workers on the front line understood the great impact on their daily work.

At the company level there was an attempt to shift the obligation to comply with Mifid2 regulations over time, without the slightest awareness that this would not have exempted the colleague from any criminal and personal liability.

On the contrary, the union had understood the criticality of the moment and then we were equipped.

The classroom was therefore very lively, alert and many questions and considerations. Finally I summarized the main topics and asked for feedback to see if they were clear. It was a good discussion. At the end of the course the students had understood the structure of the MIFID2 regulation, and were aware of the duties of the company. They were also aware of the risks the worker could run.

The large number of questions, also on financial terms, convinced us to write a glossary of the course (Glossary), written by me, which was sent to the students later, along with the slides and other papers (paper). Some months later, I also wrote an article for Rassegna Sindacale, the official CGIL's magazine (read here).

I consider that experience very positive, and the other two teachers shared this impression with me. This course allowed me to:

  • consolidate the experience in teamwork with other trainers
  • develop my ability to synthesize and disseminate even complex technical topics
  • it was very inspiring talking with the students, I learn while I teach

Time was short, but an aspect that I have to improve for longer trainings is the design of exercises in the various forms.

This course was my creation - as I proposed it, I designed it, I involved the tutor and the lawyer, moreover I guided it. When it was approved, I realized that it was a challenge - but I was afraid of it. If the course had not met the satisfaction of the trade unionists, the responsibility would have been completely mine. I doubted that I had been a little hasty but my spirit of adventure always prevails. This fear pushed me to work as best I could, and I studied hard. I had to manage the class alone, so I had to feel well prepared, as if I had to take University important test. I had to organize the times and topics very carefully, and be well prepared to answer all questions. My colleagues didn't have the technical skill on these topics, so they couldn't help me. It was difficult, but my colleagues supported me and I am grateful to them for that. I found the class's fire of questions very stimulating, a great test that gratified me.

We understood that through training we can provide not only cognitive and operational tools, but also full awareness of the non-formal importance of training. We could define it as a kind of "meta-training", a training on training.

Sometimes, taken from the routine of company or trade union courses, we lose sight of the philosophical-ontological value of training.

Just as we lose sight of the fact that even the apparently more technical training, done in the classroom, for adult students who have gained "work experience", allows not only the exchange of knowledge but also the sharing of doubts, fears and uncertainties.

This also leaves a mark on trainees. In other words, these exchanges are carriers of emotions, sensations, perceptions that give an additional boost to the learning mechanisms.

When the classroom becomes a community, then the process of change takes place, a goal that every trainer always hopes to achieve every time a new course begins.