The Finance Sector Union of Australia (FSU) has today revealed Suncorp's (ASX: SUN) major restructure will involve 550 job losses, following the announcement on Wednesday that 19 stores and one business centre would be closed.
The Brisbane-headquartered banking and insurance group will permanently close several locations across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, although most of these stores have been shut already since April when COVID-19 restrictions came into place.
The company explained customers of the stores concerned have moved to online, claiming that their nearest in-person option such as an alternative store or Australia Post outlet was usually within 500 metres or no further than several kilometres.
Suncorp noted affected employees would however be given the opportunity to apply for contact centre roles they can perform from their local communities.
FSU Queensland local executive secretary Wendy Streets argues that as a large financial services company Suncorp should have the capacity to maintain its business operations through the global pandemic and the subsequent recession caused by Covid-19.
"However, instead of valuing the staff it currently employs and planning for playing its part in rebuilding the Australian economy once the pandemic subsides, Suncorp has taken a short-sighted decision to make up to 550 roles redundant," says Streets.
"While Suncorp says 180 new roles will be created, there are no guarantees that any displaced employees will successfully be redeployed into these new roles.
"This is the worst time to be unemployed and we know how difficult it will be for some of these Suncorp workers to find new jobs."
After noting Suncorp recently recorded a statutory profit of $913 million, Streets said it was difficult to see how the loss of so many loyal employees will not affect frontline services to customers.
"Suncorp is a profitable finance company and in these difficult times, with so many Australians out of work, if we can't rely on companies like Suncorp to do the right thing by their employees, who can we rely on?"
In a response today, a Suncorp spokeswoman said the group continued to "align" its teams under an operating model announced on 1 July.
"The new model is designed to deliver on our priorities and ensure we can support the changing needs of our customers through COVID-19," she said.
"This week teams were advised of proposed changes across our business and we are fully committed to consulting with our people and supporting those impacted.
"We expect a number of new roles to be created while it's also likely some people will leave the organisation."
Earlier this week, Suncorp's executive general manager of consumer distribution, Chris Fleming, said many customers had switched to digital banking in 2020 and would likely continue to bank that way beyond COVID-19 and face-to-face transactions will fall further.
He said the number of digital transactions has risen by 10 per cent this year and two-thirds of new accounts have now opened online. At the same time, over-the-counter transactions are down almost 60 per cent since June 2016.
"Suncorp must make changes to our business so we can keep up with our customers' demands and remain a strong alternative to the major banks, which is something our customers also value," Fleming said.
"We can only be a genuine choice over the major banks if we focus on customer needs and keep our bank strong."
Updated at 4:58pm AEST on 11 September 2020.
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