First Union's Maxine Gay says ANZ should be a leader in promoting work-life balance because bank work is predictable

First Union's Maxine Gay says ANZ should be a leader in promoting work-life balance because bank work is predictable

By Gareth Vaughan

First Union's Maxine Gay, currently embroiled in an industrial relations dispute with ANZ, says the bank should be a leader in promoting work-life balance instead of undertaking what she describes as "appalling" behaviour.

Tuesday saw strikes involving workers from ANZ's Auckland and Wellington contact centres, and staff at ANZ Direct, which is the Wellington-based service processing calls for ANZ Australia.

On Friday Gay told interest.co.nz strikes would continue this week following First Union's "highlighting" of workers' concerns at the ANZ sponsored washed out cricket match between New Zealand and South Africa in Hamilton on Monday.

The union led strikes are in response to the bank's proposed changes to employment contracts that would provide more flexibility around staff working hours. The union says the changes would mean staff would only know on a month by month basis what days they would be required to work on and their starting and finishing times.

First Union has described ANZ's plans as "casualisation" of the workforce, saying workers have been prepared to allow up to 20% of the workforce to be flexible, but that wasn't good enough for the bank with it wanting "every new worker to start on the insecure work contract."

For its part ANZ says the union is trying to create an issue out of this because its want a higher pay increase than "the very competitive" 3% and 2.75% offered to staff by the bank. See more on the previous strike and the dispute here and here and here.

As part of two-year collective bargaining ANZ is offering a 3% wage rise for year one, and 2.75% for year two. However, Gay says for back office workers and contact centre workers it's offering 2% and 2%.

"And we're saying it should be 3.5% for all workers for year one and year two," Gay, who describes ANZ as "quite a formidable employer," said Gay.

ANZ says about 4,581 staff are eligible for the collective agreement, with about 1,117 of them union members. First Union says it has 1,300 members among ANZ's 8.300 staff.

'Claims from workers not unreasonable'

Gay said First Union had also made a claim for long service leave of five days at five years of service.

"This is a bank we're talking about, hugely profitable and so we don't think those claims are unreasonable from workers," Gay said.

"At the moment they (staff) only get three days long service leave. Supermarkets do better than that, fast food outfits do better than that. This is quite appalling behaviour. ANZ should be the leader. It should be the epitome of providing good, decent wages and conditions and actually leading the way on work-life balance because bank work is predictable," said Gay.

"They (ANZ) are saying they need this for flexibility and to meet customer demands. They already meet customer demands very well, thank you very much, because that resulted in a $1.37 billion profit. So how can you say you're missing out on some customers?"

The clause proposed by ANZ means the default position is 100% of  new employees can be offered flexible work contracts, Gay suggested.

"And for the bank to say 'well they don't have to accept it', if you're desperate for a job and that's the only job going, where's the choice in that?"

"The clause they're proposing also says people can become a flexible worker at the time of engagement or any other time. So what the bank staff  are actually fearful of is that they will start to be bullied and pressured into changing and becoming more flexible, particularly as the bank gets a bit of traction, as the bank gets more and more flexible," she said.

"They think the bank is saying 'give me a great big stick but I promise I won't hit you with it'," Gay added.

Gay said mediation scheduled for next month related to the union having filed two causes of action with the Employment Authority. The first relates to "discrimination in terms of the bank having put out an edict that people who strike were not to be given any opportunity for overtime." And the second was because ANZ has started making offers to individuals "in the nature of undermining the bargaining."

'Very open'

Nonetheless Gay said First Union was also "very open" to using that time for mediated bargaining.

"But the bank hasn't requested that, hasn't asked that, hasn't offered that. So we've had no communication from the bank giving any indication in relation to a change in their position in relation to flexible workers," said Gay.

An ANZ spokesman said; "We have the union's request for mediation and it includes collective bargaining. We expect to be discussing the collective agreement at mediation."

He went on to say ANZ was entitled to offer salary increases to any staff who aren't union members, and the bank hadn't discriminated against union members.

"We'll defend these claims and have filed legal proceedings against the union for making statements it knows to be not true. This relates to statements claiming that staff won’t have guaranteed hours and that we are trying to make staff casual employees who won’t have job security," the ANZ spokesman said.

He also said the average salary of employees on its Collective Agreement is about $59,000 versus the national average salary of about $55,000. The average salary of ANZ workers who are union members after the pay rise on offer would be more than $60,000.

Health insurance & lending discounts provided

In addition, the ANZ spokesman said the bank pays for medical/health insurance for all staff and provides all staff with discounted lending rates. Its leave entitlements and other terms of employment are "among the best in the industry."

"The proposal for flexible rosters does not casualise jobs or reduce the job security of staff," the ANZ spokesman said.

"Our customers want us to have some branches open later on some evenings or on Saturdays and Sundays, so we need staff to work at those times. Instead of a staff member having to work every Saturday/Sunday we want to be able to roster them to take turns. We think this is fairer but can’t do this under our current agreement."

He said days or hours of work won't change every four week period, rather they would only change from time to time where needed due to things like meet changes in customer demands or to cover for other staff on leave.

"Flexible work rosters will only be offered to some new employees in the branch network. No current employees are affected by it. Current employees can agree to work on such a roster if they want to - but they cannot be required to," the ANZ spokesman said.

"Employees on a flexible roster may not work the same days every week or their start/finish times may not be the same each day and could change from time to time. That is where the flexibility comes in. ANZ will take into account an employee’s personal circumstances and any personal requests the employee makes prior to confirming their rostered hours."

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