The Guardian 6 April, 2005

Banks merge operations,
workers lose jobs

The National Australia Bank (NAB) is to shed 300 jobs as part of plans to merge a section of its operations with other banks, the Finance Sector Union (FSU) has warned. Later this month the bank's cheque processing unit will be outsourced to American company, Fiserv, which is also slated to take over the cheque clearance operations of the Commonwealth and Westpac banks later in the year.

Australia's big four banks are forbidden to merge under the "four pillars" policy unless they can prove any merger is in the public interest to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. There is nothing to stop them merging certain operations.

FSU official Cath Noye said the banks are seeking the advantages of a merger by stealth through joint outsourcing arrangements.

Some of the cheque clearing staff have been working in the unit for over 20 years and are due thousands of dollars in leave and redundancy accruals. Even if they do get jobs at Fiserv, the union and members have a struggle on their hands to protect their accrued entitlements at the new company.

Outsourcing is being used by big corporations to deunionise and undermine wages and working conditions, and in the process deny workers their full entitlements, in particular those that continuity of employment would have given them.

Cath Noye said banks making huge profits should not be outsourcing work for short-term gain. "We are in the middle of a skills shortage. NAB should be employing, training and skilling Australians.

"This is a major corporation which makes enormous profits, it's simply not good enough to sell people off like chaff."

The FSU is predicting job cuts in other areas of the bank such as settlements, mail distribution and account services. Some market analysts have predicted as many as 3000 jobs might be lost. Earlier this week the bank announced it would cut 1700 workers in its two UK subsidiaries.

Last year's $360 million foreign currency trading scandal lead to extended board infighting, and revelations of a flawed offshore expansion bid and entrenched management "cultural problems". And now the workers are being told to pay by losing their jobs.

Ms Noye said job cuts will only punish loyal staff and do nothing to improve staff morale or customer service.

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