Commbank pay blunder costs $15m


17 April 2019

The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has notified the Finance Sector Union (FSU) that it has begun a process of reimbursing current and former staff for a series of avoidable errors that resulted in bank workers being severely underpaid.

The CBA has identified thousands of current staff and others who have left the CBA and its subsidiary, BankWest who have been severely underpaid because of poor accounting and IT processes.

“Bank workers at CBA have been underpaid for several years and once full restitution is made, plus interest and additional superannuation payments, the CBA and its BankWest subsidiary will be up for more than $10 million dollars in backpay with the possibility the total amount could top $15 million,” said FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano.

Ms Angrisano said the series of errors in the CBA’s antiquated computer systems should not have happened and would justifiably leave the bank’s customers wondering if their bank accounts were being properly managed.

“This is a major stuff-up by the CBA and hard-working bank staff deserve an apology and a commitment from the CBA’s Chair Catherine Livingstone and CEO Matt Comyn that this kind of pay bungle won’t happen again,” Ms Angrisano said.

The latest pay blunder follows another salary stuff-up at the CBA in 2017 in which thousands of staff were being underpaid superannuation. The error eventually cost the CBA $22 million in back payments.

“The FSU is determined to fight for the rights of CBA workers to be paid the correct salary,” Ms Angrisano said.

“It is outrageous that at the same time the CBA is found to be deficient in its pay systems, the bank is undertaking a secret review that could see up ten thousand bank staff lose their jobs.”

Ms Angrisano said after the FSU wrote to CEO Matt Comyn last Friday the CBA had provided a lame response which reeked of spin rather than substance and gave bank workers no comfort that their jobs were safe.

“The CBA has told us media reports that it intended to close 300 branches were ‘incorrect’ but would not deny plans to axe 10,000 to 12,000 staff, suggesting reports to that effect were ‘misleading and unnecessarily alarming,” Ms Angrisano said.

“All that sounds like HR double-speak and we are very concerned that the CBA is putting profits before people, planning a wholesale staff bloodbath which will reduce the branch network and put customer service last.”

Ms Angrisano said the CBA’s employment practices were clearly broken.

“Decades of deliberate antiworker strategies are catching up with the CBA. Their use of individual contracts to avoid collective conditions is a tactic the CBA uses to divide and rule.”

“But workers are over these tactics and want a say in their future, with fair pay and secure jobs they can count on.”

“In banking, the rules are well and truly broken when the strongest, most profitable bank sets up systems that underpay already low-paid workers.”

“And the rules are definitely broken when secret plans to slash jobs are not shared with the workers who will be impacted.”

/Public Release.