Major bank begins restructuring talks

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One of New Zealand’s biggest banks has begun restructuring talks with staff as it continues to analyse employee levels in a number of branches.

Earlier this week, Bank of New Zealand confirmed it is looking at its workforce as well as employee skills and said change may be necessary as customers continue to embrace online and digital banking options.

“We can’t go into detail on what that might be, as we need to let the proper consultation process take place with our people in the first instance,” said a spokesperson for the lender.

BNZ had 161 retail branches at the end of March 2017, down from 173 a year earlier. At the same time, automatic teller machines have increased to 488 from 479 and internet banking customers climbed to 745,000 from 705,000.

First Union has already spoken out about the restructuring talks and claims more than 100 jobs may go as part of the plan. Reduced working hours and fewer positions are also expected to hit as many as 30 branches across the country.

Hamish Kynaston, a partner with top law firm Buddle Findlay, said any restructuring initiative should be entered into with the utmost care.

“Rushing it and not thinking carefully enough about the business rationale – they’re two of the most common mistakes I see employers making when it comes to major change,” says Kynaston.

“The business rationale used to be off-limits to the courts so you could put up a really basic proposal and the focus was all on process – but now there is a deserved focus on substance.”

Kynaston, who specialises in employment relations, says some employers still don’t understand that they not only need to think carefully about their rationale – they also need to explain it thoroughly.

“People say; ‘We want to reduce costs so we need to reduce headcount and here’s our proposal,’ and of course cost is a perfectly adequate reason for restructuring but you really need to drill down to that next level,” he stresses.

“It’s fine to cut head count but you need to explain why you are proposing to cut these specific positions and what other things you have considered,” he continues. “Failing to do that work first and then not explaining it to employees – that’s a major mistake.”
 

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