A big four bank has shut three of its branches during the coronavirus pandemic much to the ire of the finance union, citing a larger trend of consumers switching over to digital transactions.
CBA has closed its branches in St Agnes, Adelaide; Manly West in east Brisbane and Erina, on the NSW Central Coast.
According the bank, the closures were planned well before the virus reached pandemic levels and no staff will be losing their jobs as a result.
But a number of employees were reported to be considering or opting to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy, while others are being redeployed within the group.
The Finance Sector Union has blasted the closures, with FSU national assistant secretary Nathan Rees calling it a “slap in the face” for the community and local businesses.
“This heartless act is totally at odds with what the Australian community expects from a major bank right now,” Mr Rees said.
“This is a bad decision for the local community and sends a broader message to CBA staff that their employment is under threat. Banking is an essential service and that’s why banks have been propped up with taxpayer funds in previous crises.
“Branch closures are a slap in the face for the community and local businesses struggling to stay afloat. Big banks have a responsibility to the broader community and they should not be doing anything that could add more workers to the queues outside Centrelink offices.”
In its defence, CBA said it is has the largest network of branches around the country which are remaining open. The bank is also recruiting up to 500 temporary employees.
The Erina branch is said to be closing as a result of a $1.5 million refurbishment of a larger nearby branch at Erina Fair shopping centre. CBA reported it will be deploying all affected staff from the Erina closure to the new revamped outlet.
However, St Agnes and Manly West have been slated for closure because of a significant drop in business, CBA said, with consumers switching to digital transactions.
There are said to be nearby branches within 4 kilometres of both centres, along with nearby Australia Post outlets. The bank also said the staff at both retired shops have been offered other roles and redeployment in the group.
During the royal commission, ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott said bank branches are becoming “uneconomic” as consumers opt to bank online.
In the decade leading up to 2018, ANZ had closed around 110 branches.
In 2019, the bank confirmed it had closed 20 branches across Victoria and South Australia, with 12 being located in metro areas.
Westpac confirmed in October it had proposed closures for a third of its St George branches in Brisbane, as a result of “significant decline” with more consumers choosing to bank online.
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
You can contact her on [email protected].