150 jobs at risk: union

THE impact on local jobs of a merger between Westpac and St George banks remains uncertain, bank union spokesman Geoff Derrick said yesterday.

Mr Derrick, NSW/ACT Finance Sector Union branch secretary, said 90 per cent of St George and Westpac branches overlapped in NSW towns, adding Westpac had not proven its business model could retain two branches in each town.

He said the eight St George branches between Lismore and Tweed Heads could be closed, placing as many as 150 jobs under threat.

St George has branches in Alstonville, Ballina, Byron Bay, Casino and Lismore; while Westpac has branches in Alstonville, Byron Bay, Ballina, Evans Head, Casino, Kyogle, Lismore and Mullumbimby.

However, Mr Derrick pointed out the merger was not yet set in stone.

Although the Australian Consumer Competition Commission (ACCC) had decided not to oppose the merger, it still has to be approved by shareholders, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan.

The Treasurer must assess the impact on the public, including bank employees.

Mr Derrick said the union was concerned about the merger and would continue to lobby the Treasurer.

“We are very concerned about job losses, particularly in regional communities, where there is not as much opportunity to pick up work elsewhere,” he said.

“We think the ACCC has got it wrong.”

A spokesperson for Westpac said the merger was designed to respect customer choice with both Westpac and St George brands and branch networks being retained.

“Westpac will maintain all customer facing jobs and customers' day-to-day banking experience will not be affected,” he said.

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