BANKS have quietly shelved their bid to extend the definition of ordinary working hours to include Saturday afternoons and Sundays, in a sign they have a limited appetite for further workplace reforms while many are shedding jobs.
Commonwealth Bank become the latest to detail job cuts yesterday. It announced it would axe 100 mortgage-related roles as it deals with the slowdown in demand for loans affecting all banks.
ANZ, CBA and Westpac applied to Fair Work Australia in March to amend an award covering banks to allow weekend work to be considered part of the ordinary working week. They said it would improve the flexibility of staffing branches and call centres.
But unions had feared it was part of a broader attempt by banks to abolish penalty rates for weekend work. Banks pay staff time and a half for Saturday afternoons and double time for Sundays.
Michael Tamvakologos, a partner for the law firm Ashurt Australia, which represent the banks, told Fair Work Australia yesterday the banks ”do not wish to press” the application surrounding the extension of the working hours. A Fair Work Australia directions hearing had been scheduled for tomorrow, but may now be cancelled.
While the more controversial aspects of the award have been scrapped, banks will still press ahead with changes to annual leave, including asking staff to draw down on excessive leave balances.
A Westpac spokesman confirmed the application had been withdrawn. He said the award applied to a small proportion of the bank’s staff and there had been no plans to change penalty rates.
In their initial application, the banks had argued they were ”no different” to most retailers and other service providers such as telecommunications companies or call centre operators where staff working Saturday afternoons and Sundays fall under the definition of ordinary hours.
The national director of the Finance Sector Union, Wendy Streets, said there was never any justification for the banks to try to change workers’ entitlements.
”These banks should completely and utterly rule out any further attack on working hours and weekend penalty rates,” she said.
An ANZ spokesman said it was not affected by the application because the workplace agreement with ANZ staff allowed for the extension of ordinary hours into weekend work.
Meanwhile, CBA said yesterday said it would close its mortgages services processing site in Melbourne at the end of the year and shift some processing services to centres interstate.
The CBA’s chief executive, Ian Narev, said recently his bank had no plans for wholesale job cuts and pledged not to send jobs offshore. A CBA spokesman yesterday reiterated the bank’s pledge not to send jobs overseas.
While not directly touching on the topic of weekend work, the ANZ chief executive, Mike Smith, said last week labour flexibility was ”important for any economy”.
”I think the issue of competitiveness is an important one for Australia. It’s one we’ve really got to look at,” Mr Smith said.
”We have to be realistic that we’re part of the global economy and we have to therefore remain competitive.”
The US finance company GE Money had initially been party to the action to extend working hours, but it withdrew shortly after the application