Australia's Commonwealth Bank plans to sack 10,000 staff, shut 300 branches: Report

Pedro Gonçalves
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Australia's Commonwealth Bank plans to sack 10,000 staff, shut 300 branches: Report

Commonwealth Bank of Australia is working on a plan to slash as many as 10,000 staff from the bank's 50,000-strong global workforce and to shut 300 branches in a bid to save A$2bn to boost profit and appease shareholders.

Describing the possible cuts as "outrageous acts", the Finance Sector Union (FSU) urged bank chief executive Matt Comyn to come clean and reveal his "secret plan", first reported by The Australian, to slash jobs and close branches.

Comyn had wanted to keep the plan secret until at least after the May 18 national elections, the newspaper said. Job cuts of that magnitude would be politically sensitive at a time the banking industry is struggling to win back public trust after an inquiry into financial industry misconduct unearthed a litany of wrongdoing.

A reduction in staff and branch numbers of this magnitude would have a devastating impact on thousands of bank workers and their families around Australia"

The nation's largest lender is said to be considering closing up to 300 of its almost 1,000 branches, the paper said. A reduction of 25% of its workforce could see 10,000-12,000 jobs go in coming years, the report said.

FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said if the report was not correct, Comyn must immediately notify the bank's 50,000 staff that their jobs were not in jeopardy.

"A reduction in staff and branch numbers of this magnitude would have a devastating impact on thousands of bank workers and their families around Australia,"  Angrisano said.

"The CBA is a highly profitable company which relies on its staff to deliver financial services to its large customer base and Matt Comyn is on the wrong track if he thinks shutting down branches and sacking staff will enhance the bank's reputation in the community and increase profits," she said.

Commonwealth Bank described the reports as "misleading and unnecessarily alarming" and that the bank was "committed to our people".

It also said the number of 300 branches slated for closure was incorrect.

"We remain committed to our decision to limit our review of branches in regional and rural towns during this financial year, given the conditions currently experienced by rural NSW and Queensland," the bank said in a statement.

But it did concede it indicated in its half year results there "was need to manage costs where it makes sense in terms of efficiency and as part of good business discipline".

The Commonwealth Bank made a net profit of A$9.23bn in the 2018 financial year, and a half-year profit of A$4.6bn in this financial year.

Commonwealth Bank has the largest workforce among Australia's big four banks, and the second-lowest sales-per-employee ratio in the latest half-year reporting period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The cuts would represent the biggest staff-reduction program (in actual numbers) undertaken by an Australian bank.