Union fears for Westpac/St George jobs - others don't

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The Westpac/St George merger threatens thousands of back-office jobs in the new financial year, says the Finance Sector Union of Australia.

Leon Carter, the FSU's national secretary, is concerned for the future of about 4,000 to 5,000 employees in duplicated support roles within the combined firm.

"We say to Westpac: 'you continue to be incredibly profitable, so you can afford to keep everyone employed and shouldn't be reaping even more profits at the expense of back-office workers'," Carter tells us.

But he concedes that Westpac's recent decision not to offshore jobs until after the financial crisis is positive for workers.

By contrast, financial sector recruitment consultants are not expecting mass back-office layoffs at Westpac, or at any other bank.

Bob Olivier, director of recruitment firm Olivier Group, comments: "In fact, job cutting has not been as great as once feared as clients have been more creative, primarily in reducing hours, using up leave and so on."

Redundancies in late 2008 and early 2009 have actually created more work for temps in finance operations jobs, adds Olivier.

Westpac/St George integration work is known to have opened up fixed-term and temporary positions in functions such as IT and project management.

Ryan Webster, senior consultant banking & finance at Robert Walters, also believes we have already seen the worst of the back-office retrenchments.

"Most of the banks made cuts early and should remain stable, although potential changes in the structures of some local institutions in the later stages of 2009 could lead to more reductions," he says

Job prospects for both junior and senior accountancy and back-office staff remain solid, according to Webster. "New investment standards in the wake of the global financial crisis are creating more work for auditors. This is generating more opportunity for experienced accountancy candidates than those in other operational areas."

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