Part of the union

From Globes:

Deloitte is latest Israeli accountancy firm to unionize

Ernst & Young Israel, PwC Israel and KPMG Somekh Haikin have all unionized.

Following Ernst & Young Israel, KPMG Somekh Haikin, and Kesselman & Kesselman PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Israel, employees of Deloitte Israel are joining their colleagues by beginning the process of establishing a workers’ committee.

Why is this happening?

If you read the piece, you will see this quote:

Deloitte Israel employees also make it clear that they have no intention of attacking the firm’s management. “The purpose of this e-mail is not to oppose the management of the firm in any way; it is not a call to arms or for any kind of war against the firm or its management,” the e-mail states, adding, “As employees of the leading accounting firm in Israel and the world, each one of us will certainly do his best to make the union a good-natured and proper one that will do all of the parties honor.”

It may not be a war against the firm or its management, but unionization is also not a friendly, co-operative action. It absolutely is an action against the management, and probably for good reason.

Staff are poorly paid – even well qualified and experienced staff.

Working conditions are poor. For example, I was told that accountancy firms take up half the office space of equivalent sized (in employee numbers) businesses, because they truly are cube farms. With small cubes.

And apart from the pay and physical working conditions, the working environment is also not that great. For example, apparently partner exploitation of their subordinates’ work, and taking the credit for same, is rife. That’s not entirely unknown in professional services circles, but the impression I get is that the situation here is out of control, and has been for a time.

Rampaging partners. Demoralized staff. If management were doing its job, there probably would be no need for unionization.

Another contributing factor is the general standard of professional services. It’s poor. It looks to be about twenty years – at least – behind the UK and USA. Overseas businesses and people who use the bigger firms of professional advisers get markedly poorer service from the local firms. And that continues, because there’s not enough competition – although there are enough firms. There’s a strange dynamic in the marketplace here, meaning that firms do not seem to rush to improve their services versus their competitors. “If they are not doing it, why should I?” seems to be the standard.

And linked in to that is another factor: because good quality staff are not properly valued, the firms do not feel the need to make any (or much) effort to retain good staff. If the employee wants to leave, let him leave. Let’s ignore the costs and inconvenience of retraining. Let’s ignore the impact on the services we provide. After all, where can they go elsewhere that will be any better?

And so, unionization arises.

I hope it will work out for the workers. Then there might be more substance to a statement by the management of these firms about how much they appreciate their business depends on their staff, and how they value their staff. Until then, it’s just talk.