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Westpac staff strike demanding pay rise


Westpac employees demand higher wages (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, August 9, 2023

More than 900 employees will walk off their job today, August 9, 2023, across Westpac branches nationwide, united in their demand for better pay.

Westpac workers have been in pay negotiations with the bank for five months and are seeking meaningful wage increases above the cost of living, but they say progress has stalled and the bank’s position has not improved.

Workers voted to hold a national strike for two hours, as well as a social media strike and other walkouts in individual workplaces. A picket will be held outside Westpac’s head office building on Takutai Square in Auckland.

Stagnation in pay

Bill Bradford, First Union organiser, said Westpac workers had not received wage increases commensurate with increased profits and workloads in the business for a long time.

“Westpac will likely make another billion dollars in profit this year but workers’ wages have stagnated for the last decade and negotiations with the bank have been drawn-out and unsuccessful,” said Mr Bradford.

“After five months, workers have voted to strike because they believe that Westpac is no longer engaging with the bargaining and a message must be sent. These are difficult and stressful jobs that generate a lot of profit for Westpac, but in private, many of these workers are struggling to make ends meet and keep up with the rising cost of living.”

“We have to demand more from our banks, they are some of the richest organisations in the country but do not support the communities they make so much money from.”

The strike action has been called by more than 900 employees of the bank who are members of the First Union, which is New Zealand’s second-largest private-sector trade union. more than 95% of union members voted to reject the offer last month for pay increases made by the bank as it was below the current rate of inflation of 6.7%.

Mr Bradford acknowledged that although First Union members were a minority in the company, they represented a sentiment shared by many others. He said, “Some people are not in the Union. It does not mean to say that they are happy.”

Mindful of the financial scenario

A Westpac spokesperson said the bank is mindful of the increasing cost of living and the financial impact on its employees. The bank has offered a 7% pay increase over an 18-month period, which it says “is above the forecast inflation track”. The offer also includes a one-off cash payment of about $1000, before tax.

“We believe our remuneration compares favourably to other employers in the financial services sector and includes a range of attractive benefits for all employees, such as a market-leading one week of wellbeing leave on top of annual leave, discounted banking, competitive superannuation and subsidised health insurance.”

Westpac said it has plans in place across the business to minimise any disruption for customers.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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