Australia’s major banks are pushing for the definition of ordinary working hours to be extended to include Saturday afternoons and all of Sundays.
In a joint application to an award review by Fair Work Australia, the banks argue the changes would promote “flexible and efficient modern work practices in a way that has proper regard to the considerations of productivity and employment costs”.
The application made by ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and GE Capital Finance says: “The banks are, in substance, in no different position to many retailers or other retail providers such as telecommunications service providers and contract call centre operators, each of which has access to a modern award facility permitting ordinary hours to be worked on Saturdays and Sundays.
The banks claim that the Finance Sector Union’s (FSU’s) proposals to consolidate existing award provisions would “do nothing more than reflect historical and, in many respects, out-dated employment practices” and should be rejected.
All four financial institutions involved in the application already open some branches on Saturdays and Sundays.
The FSU has come out fighting against the banks’ “profit grab”.
“I think it is outrageous as this is an attack on the lowest paid workers in industry from an industry that is highly profitable and very productive,” says the FSU’s state secretary Geoff Derrick.
“This is a lazy attempt to force people to give up their weekends and reduce their living standards.
“There is no promise of reducing fees and charges to customers, this is about propping up the bottom line by the most profitable banks in the world.”
Derrick claims there is no demonstrable public demand for increased bank trading as people are able to use internet and phone banking.
“There is no evidence that it needs to happen.
“There is no profit crisis here, there is a very productive workforce and ample access to services to the community.
“There is no reason to do this except for senior executives wanting to prop up their profits and bonuses at the expense of the lowest paid workers.
“At the moment the system works by penalty rates making volunteering for the weekend attractive. If you remove the penalty rates you remove the volunteers, which will impact on family life.
“A Tuesday is not the same as a Saturday or Sunday.”
The application follows calls by the retail and hospitality sectors for a review of penalty rates.
The Australian Retailers Association and the National Retailers Association are asking for penalty loadings to be halved while the Restaurant and Caterers Association has argued that penalty rates are an anachronism.
This story first appeared on SmartCompany.