What Labour can learn from Goldman Sachs

22nd March 2021

Written by

By Nick Smith

Sympathy seems to be in short for the Goldman analysts whose feedback on their working environment made it into the public domain earlier this week. While the content was familiar territory – who’d have thought investment banking entailed long hours and a huge amount of work preparing presentation materials? – it’s rare to see concerns documented and put to management in this fashion.

Some may sneer at this situation. These individuals have chosen to work in this industry with their eyes open and are extremely well compensated for their time and effort. Long hours and poor workplaces are also not the exclusive preserve of investment bankers within the City or in other sectors of the economy. While high pay shouldn’t buy colleagues the right to treat others poorly in the workplace it’s easy to simply shrug and say caveat emptor.

What sets this case aside is the fact that the individuals took it upon themselves to challenge this situation and ask management to do something about it – they want a cap on working hours at 80 per week, plus enforcement of existing policy that work shouldn’t be expected on Friday nights or Saturdays. While some of their demands may ultimately be rejected, the fact that they are trying to change something in the workplace they disagree with is something to be applauded.

Many roles in the City come with the type of security that is often absent from the broader labour market. Basic things like regular hours, pay, and (for the large part) working environments that are healthy to work in help make financial services one of the UK’s leading industries.

This security is often absent in other parts of the economy. Management practices that undermine people’s agency and security of employment have proliferated, often without a commensurate improvement in productivity or efficiency. Such practices also have social consequence for people looking to get on the world or simple provide a stable environment for their family.

I doubt the labour movement is used to looking at junior Goldman Sachs bankers for inspiration but on this occasion, it may be merited. Where you see things that aren’t right, document and challenge them. If it’s good enough for the City, there’s no reason it can’t be applied elsewhere.

Nick Smith
Chair, Labour in the City