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Westpac staff seek a pay rise equal to inflation

Almost 900 FIRST Union members who work for Westpac went on strike on Wednesday afternoon after five months of negotiating for a pay increase to match the increasing cost of living.

Although some branches around New Zealand had to shut up shop at midday, Masterton’s branch stayed open during the strike.

Union organiser Bill Bradford said the Australian-owned bank is increasing worker salaries below the rate of inflation while posting massive profits and paying huge salaries to its executives.

“The bank itself is making a billion-dollar profit which it’s sending overseas to pay shareholders,” Bradford said.

“It has no problem increasing pay for the bigwigs, but it’s not budging on giving a decent pay increase to ordinary workers like tellers and call centre staff.”

Bradford said the bank refused union representatives access to branches nationwide to support workers to go on strike.

He also alleged Westpac had frightened some workers by individually asking them if they intended to strike.

A Westpac spokesperson said it respected its worker’s right to participate in industrial action and said no workers were prevented from striking, and that the bank only declined union representatives access to one office in Auckland.

A FIRST Union worker who spoke to the Times-Age on condition of anonymity said Westpac is a good employer in many ways, but she felt “a bit off” by how it had treated her during the strike.

“It was supposed to be a walk-out, but Westpac just suspended us for two hours, basically kicking us out of the bank,” she said.

“I’ve worked at the bank a long time and always been a union member, but that’s never happened before, so that wasn’t very nice.”

She said her job had become more difficult since covid-19, with ever-increasing compliance and an expectation she knows everything without a proportionate pay increase.

“Customer-facing staff like us are the ones who actually see the cost-of-living crisis, we see customers coming in under pressure, and it’s putting pressure on us.

“It doesn’t seem that Westpac is being appreciative that I’ve been loyal over all these years.”

Westpac’s spokesperson said the bank is mindful of the increasing cost of living financially impacting its employees.

“Our offer of a seven per cent pay increase over 18 months is above the forecast inflation track and, on top of that, we’re also offering a one-off cash payment,” they said.

Bradford pointed out that a 7 per cent pay increase over 18 months is a 4.66 per cent increase in a year – below current inflation of six per cent.

But Westpac’s spokesperson said the remuneration compares favourably to other employers in the sector and includes other employee benefits such as discounted banking and subsidised health insurance.

Westpac New Zealand made $1.05 billion in profit in 2022; in the same year, it was rated as having the least satisfied customers of any New Zealand bank.

The bank’s only presence in Wairarapa is in Masterton after it closed its Carterton branch in 2016.

Chief executive Catherine McGrath made $3.65 million in “total target remuneration” in 2022, according to the bank’s annual report, 38 times its average employee salary of $95,453 [according to salary data website payscale.com].

The bank said it is open to discussion with the union.

1 COMMENT

  1. And they rewarded all the non union members with flash coffees and food and extra long breaks before the strike occurred. Putting security guards in branch as well. Treating us like naughty little children as well. Causing a real divide amongst union and non/union workers….. absolutely pathetic.

Comments are closed.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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