Back in April, ANZ National Bank Chief Executive Graham Hodges sought to allay fears among staff that the banking group was planning redundancies. He assured bank workers:

None of our staff need to lose their jobs. Work was moving to India but the bank was confident it could redeploy workers to alternative roles. It is very hard to get skilled workers. We are choosing to use our workers, who we want to retain, in a different type of work which is more sustainable longer term. That fits with a what you call a higher wage, higher skill economy.

He also stated that ANZ expected to increase its workforce in New Zealand, not reduce it.

So it would have been a shock for the ANZ workers who were summoned to meetings this morning and told that there were going to be wholesale redundancies as of 27 October, citing a reduction in over the counter transactions and the global financial situation as the reason.

Now those excuses just don’t hold water. The over the counter transactions reduction will have been a long-term trend resulting from greater use of electronic banking. It would have been well known to ANZ boses back in April when they promised no redundancies.

As for the global financial situation, both ANZ and the Reserve Bank have been repeatedly issuing assurances over the past week that New Zealand is relatively immune to the crisis, that the New Zealand banks don’t actually have any subprime lending on their own books, and that the impact on New Zealand is through constriction on the credit market. But that cost has been passed on to customers already through maintaining higher interest rates.

So it seems that ANZ is using the global financial situation as an opportunist excuse to do what it wanted to do all along – reduce the size of its workforce. This is the bank that made over $1billion in profit on its New Zealand operations last year, and is projecting a similar profit this year.

And for those who remember Sir Roger Douglas’ tenure as Minister of Finance, it raises the very scary prospect that the Hollow Men of the National Party may be planning to use the “shock” of the global financial crisis as an excuse to implement unheralded and ideologically driven large scale public service redundancies if they lead the next Government.


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