The banking workers’ union has told the Commonwealth Bank to come clean on whether it plans to axe 10,000 jobs, or a fifth of its workforce.
The Australian on Friday reported a “secret plan” to slash as many as 10,000 staff from the bank’s 50,000-strong global workforce and to shut 300 branches in a bid to save $2 billion to boost profit and satisfy shareholders.
Describing the possible cuts as “outrageous acts”, the Finance Sector Union of Australia (FSU) urged bank chief executive Matt Comyn to come clean and reveal his reported “secret plan” to slash jobs and close branches.
FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said if the report was not correct, Mr Comyn must immediately notify the bank’s 50,000 staff that their jobs were not in jeopardy.
“A reduction in staff and branch numbers of this magnitude would have a devastating impact on thousands of bank workers and their families around Australia,” Ms Angrisano said.
“The CBA is a highly profitable company which relies on its staff to deliver financial services to its large customer base and Matt Comyn is on the wrong track if he thinks shutting down branches and sacking staff will enhance the bank’s reputation in the community and increase profits,” she said.
Commonwealth Bank described the reports as “misleading and unnecessarily alarming” and that the bank was “committed to our people”.
It also said the number of 300 branches slated for closure was incorrect.
“We remain committed to our decision to limit our review of branches in regional and rural towns during this financial year, given the conditions currently experienced by rural NSW and Queensland,” the bank said in a statement.
But it did concede it indicated in its half year results there “was need to manage costs where it makes sense in terms of efficiency and as part of good business discipline”.
The Commonwealth Bank made a net profit of $9.23 billion in the 2018 financial year, and a half-year profit of $4.6 billion in this financial year.
The bank’s share price rose after Friday morning’s report, gaining $1.24 (1.8 per cent) t0 $71.50 by 3pm (AEST).
The cuts would represent the biggest staff-reduction program (in actual numbers) undertaken by an Australian bank.
NAB announced in 2017 it would cut 6000 jobs to cut costs, but retrain or recruit 2000 with skills more appropriate to the modern banking environment.
ANZ’s 2018 annual report, too, confirmed it had cut job numbers by almost 4200 over that financial year.
Part of the cuts could come from the bank’s eventual sale of NewCo, its financial planning and mortgage broker arm which included Aussie Home Loans, Colonial First State and its stakes in Mortgage Choice.
Ms Angrisano said the speculation about cuts of this magnitude would only “lead to uncertainty and has far reaching negative impacts on employees”.
“It is appropriate that you confirm or deny these reports to ensure workers know where they stand,” she wrote to Mr Comyn.
“Can you confirm if the CBA is currently making such plans as reported? Can you confirm if the CBA plans on drastically reducing your branch network? Can you confirm if the CBA has plans on reducing the branch network by approximately 300?”
Ms Angrisano said Mr Comyn and chair Catherine Livingstone had been contrite and admitted the bank’s failings at the Hayne Royal Commission, but all that would be for naught if the bank turned around and slashed so many jobs.
The bank said it would continue to consult with the union regarding changes that have implications for staff and would “open and transparent” as soon as any decisions are made.