Damning evidence has been provided by the FSU at the latest hearing for the Senate Inquiry into Bank Closures, including personal experiences bravely shared by FSU member Myrna Ellery.
While initially intended to be the final hearing, the Inquiry has been extended for another six months to allow more time for the overwhelming number of submissions and feedback to be considered.
At the hearing, CEOs of some of our largest banks told the Inquiry they have put in a moratorium on branch closures and have adopted the ABA’s ‘Branch Closure Support Protocol’. However, this protocol makes NO reference to their workforce as a stakeholder.
Yet bank workers have their lives turned upside down when they are shuffled from town to town as branch after branch closes, travelling longer and longer distances until they are unable to either secure a job or they can’t manage the additional travel.
It just shows how little (or no) consideration is given to bank workers when bank closure decisions are made, the very people who have helped turn massive profits for these banks.
Workers placed in an impossible position
FSU member Myrna Ellery also revealed front line branch staff in most major banks have targets imposed on them to migrate customers to digital banking options.
“The irony of this is that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Myrna told the Inquiry.
“If you and your team have done your job well in a retail branch and met the targets for migration – you will often find your branch is listed to close.”
Myrna bravely spoke of the impact closures have had on staff mental health, when the likelihood of securing another job at the same level of pay in remote/rural or regional Australia is low.
“A staff member will then need to face the prospect of travelling to a neighbouring town which may be a long distance away,” she said.
“With increasing prices of fuel and often no public transport option available it can be uneconomic and logistically difficult to travel.
“If or when that branch is also listed to close, going from job to job in rural and regional Australia may mean staff have to face this trauma again and again – this can be damaging to their mental health.”
Banking is an essential service
We know that the decisions on branch closures are made based on artificially low transaction numbers based only on deposit and withdrawals, and they don’t count interactions that aren’t transactions.
Unfortunately, these interactions are the ones that cannot be done anywhere but at a bank branch. They range from identity checks to cries for help from the most vulnerable in the community impacted by violence or misadventure.
It includes loan applications, opening new accounts for children or community organisations and more. All these interactions have one thing in common. They must be performed by a suitably qualified bank worker.
Bank closures are simply a grab by corporations for a larger slice of profits and a desire to exit the most expensive arm of banking – face to face retail banking. It also leaves communities without opportunities for white collar semi-skilled jobs that can be filled by well-trained locals – who don’t need a university degree.
It’s time to declare banking an essential service and ensure banks that make billions of dollars of profit from the Australian community are obligated to provide banking services to those in regional and remote Australia.