Australia's bank pain NZ's gain

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 16:00 21/06/2013
ANZ

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New Zealand could gain 300 new jobs from an ANZ Bank proposal to outsource a big chunk of its Melbourne call centre roles.

A leaked internal memo revealed the Australian bank intends to slash as many as 590 jobs, replacing them with cheaper labour here and in the Philippines.

Seventy jobs were already shifted from Melbourne to Wellington in May this year.

"Given the success of the NZ transitions and the collections pilot in Manila, we are recommending moving towards a footprint of 40 per cent Australia, 30 per cent NZ and 30 per cent Manila over a 3-5 year period," the document said.

The bank currently has over 1,000 Australian call centre staff, suggesting that 300 of those could eventually be based in New Zealand.

ANZ spokesman Stephen Ries said the document was a draft presentation that went to senior management.

"We're not going to speculate on either the contents of the draft proposal or the numbers," he said.

"No firm decisions have been made on whether we're going to proceed."

The proposed plan has sparked outrage from Australian unionists, as ANZ joins a tide of companies shifting their workforces to cheaper markets.

Australian Finance Sector Union national secretary Leon Carter could not be reached for comment. Yesterday he told AAP he was not confident about the future of the jobs, and said it was upsetting for bank workers.

"We're talking about people who go to work for one of the most profitable companies in this entire country who have no right to hold the ongoing employment of their workforce over their heads."

FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid, who represents bank workers in New Zealand, was highly critical of last month's smaller-scale shift.

At the time he said he was worried about New Zealand becoming the equivalent of ''Australia's Mexico''.

Shedding staff and sending them offshore had become a key part of ANZ's overall method of achieving high profits, Reid said.

"It's a race to the bottom... and in the end that's not good for jobs in New Zealand or Australia."

Reid could not be reached for comment on the latest developments.

Yesterday it emerged that IBM Australia is also looking at axing up to 1500 jobs and potentially moving many of them to New Zealand.

IBRS analyst Alan Hansell told the Sydney Morning Herald he wouldn't be surprised if New Zealand ended up benefiting the most from the cuts.

That was because of the country's "cheaper real estate, lower mandatory superannuation and labour rates", he said.

New Zealand also had better English-language proficiency than other countries in the region, which would help drive productivity when talking with clients, he said. 

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