IT staff go in Bankwest chop

Commonwealth Bank of Australia subsidiary Bankwest today confirmed it would cut at least "a handful" of IT staff as part of a wider cull that has also seen the bank refrain from hiring an additional 50 IT contractors over the past few months.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia subsidiary Bankwest today confirmed it would cut at least "a handful" of IT staff as part of a wider cull that has also seen the bank refrain from hiring an additional 50 IT contractors over the past few months.

Creating the impression that IT and back office are second-class citizens who are expendable is a complete offence to them

FSU secretary Leon Carter

Bankwest today confirmed that 400 staff would be chopped from "non-customer facing" roles. In total, 250 jobs will be cut from its west coast operations and 150 from the east coast, representing a reduction of 7.2 and 9.3 per cent, respectively, according to an email seen by ZDNet.com.au sent to Bankwest staff today.

A spokesperson told ZDNet.com.au that a "handful" of IT staff would be affected by today's announcement, however, they added exact figures wouldn't be known for some weeks until the bank completed negotiations with the Financial Sector Union.

The bank today said it had increased its overall headcount from 3,340 to 5,100 over the past four years.

The decision came off the back of a review of Bankwest's costs by its board and an executive committee over the past months. In preparation for its outcome Bankwest had held off filling around 50 IT contractor roles in the past months, the bank's spokesperson said.

"What that has meant is that there is only a handful of roles that will be affected by today's announcement and only a handful of roles that will be made redundant," the spokesperson said.

In the email sent to staff, Bankwest highlighted that the cutbacks were necessary or else it would face a "competitive disadvantage". It also told staff that its IT goals for 2009 would not change as a result of the cut backs.

National secretary of the Financial Sector Union (FSU), Leon Carter, said it appeared that the cuts would mostly affect back office support and IT roles. The bank described the job cuts in the email as coming from "clerical, support and managerial areas".

Carter said the email was "completely offensive" to Bankwest's non-customer facing staff: "Creating the impression that IT and back office are second-class citizens who are expendable is a complete offence to them," he said.

The FSU also "rejected" Bankwest's rationale for the cut backs and claimed that its cost-to-income ratio was no different to what it was at the outset of the $2.1 billion acquisition by CommBank.

At a media briefing in October last year CommBank CEO Ralph Norris said the IT integration of Bankwest would come in 2011, following the deployment of CommBank's new core banking systems under its $580 million modernisation program currently underway with Accenture and SAP.

At the time Norris said the group was "looking to re-deploy staff rather than making redundancies", but also highlighted that Bankwest faced higher operational costs than CommBank did.

CommBank estimated the cost of integrating Bankwest, including technology, transition and restructuring, at $330 million, with $220 million a year to eventually be shaved off its annual costs, including technology spending.

Bankwest late last year shed its 49 per cent stake in its joint venture IT and business process outsourcing business with Unisys, Unisys West, after which the division was merged into Unisys' broader operations. According to a spokesperson for Unisys Australia there were layoffs in its Western Australian operations prior to Christmas, however, they were unrelated to the ending of the joint venture, and part of the company's global restructure.

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