An Australian union has criticized Westpac for being ‘reckless’ after it cut more than 750 jobs in just seven weeks as workers face the ongoing cost of living.
Westpac has axed hundreds of jobs in 21 areas since the end of May, with ‘many more’ cuts to be made, according to the Finance Sector Union (FSU).
In a statement posted on its website, the union said the job cuts began on May 24, weeks after the bank reported a 22 percent rise in its six-month net profit to just under $4 billion.
According to Westpac’s 2023 half-yearly report published in May, chief executive Peter King said the bank was ‘well positioned for the future’ after achieving a ‘good result’.
The bank has laid off a total of 751 workers, with the most recent redundancies taking place last Wednesday, affecting around 77 employees.
The Finance Sector Union (FSU) said Westpac had axed hundreds of jobs in 21 areas since the end of May, with ‘many more’ cuts to come.
The FSU said the bank sacked the workers because it needed to ‘cut costs in difficult economic times’.
‘This devastating announcement was made smack bang in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis where workers are already struggling to make ends meet,’ the union said.
‘They claim they need to cut costs in tough economic times, yet the NRL has shed almost $25 million in sponsorships and their executives are getting huge pay rises’.
The union said the move ‘clearly shows that Westpac is making a choice to prioritize profits over people’.
‘These cuts are a slap in the face to those who have worked so hard to get the bank to where it is today and show a clear disregard for its staff, customers and community,’ it said.
In May, 34 employees lost their jobs in two days across IT, fin markets and personal wealth, consumer and business banking divisions.
Then, just two weeks later in June, further cuts occurred with the closure of five branches, leaving 22 workers out of work.
It is understood that 301 staff were laid off from the program delivery transition, consumer and business banking divisions on the same day, as well as seven other employees from the Chief Transformation Office.
In the same month, another 290 were released in various departments.
So far in July, 97 people are understood to have lost their jobs at major banks.
Last week, Westpac announced it would cut 300 roles from its head office, customer service and contract positions.
A Westpac spokesperson told news.com.au the redundancies were first flagged early last year and affected staff were ‘supported’.
‘In February 2022, we announced plans to simplify the bank, improve accountability and reduce costs. This ongoing restructuring is part of our simplification and cost realignment programme,’ the spokesperson said.
The union called the job cuts ‘cruel’ and accused the bank of putting ‘profits before people’ (stock image)
The bank said it would ‘assist’ those affected by the job losses
‘We will support our staff as we make these changes.’
Westpac staff have been shocked by the cuts, with even those still working for the bank concerned about how the loss of so many employees will affect their workload.
‘I am part of a change team of 24 people, some of whom are affected. I’m “safe” but don’t understand what jobs are being left for us to sort through,’ one employee told the union.
Another said: ‘Whoever is making this decision needs to work on the shop floor and find out the workload and the load. Not a good look for the bank.’
A staff member said she had to put her personal life on hold, including plans to have children, after learning she had lost her position.
‘We were planning to have another baby within the next year, which is now [we] May have to be put on hold because if I have to start a new role at another company, I won’t be eligible for parental leave,’ she said.
‘I’m already 35 and so a year late would make a big difference, on top of the fact that our finances are getting tighter due to the cost of living and rising interest rates.’
The FSU said it and Westpac workers would fight against the ‘short-sighted’ job cuts and launched a petition on its website.
The union has also written to the NSW, ACT, Victorian and Tasmanian treasurers ‘about the impact these job cuts will have on service delivery in the public sector and beyond’.