An attempt by the National Australia Bank to override the union’s opposition to a new wage deal by putting a vote directly to staff has failed, with employees shooting down the proposal.
Thousands of bank employees had previously threatened to strike over the “meagre” pay offer, the Finance Sector Union (FSU) said in September, with claims it does not address the rising cost of living and the organisation is plagued by an “understaffing crisis”.
The bank had offered employees earning less than $100,000 annually a 5 per cent rise in the first year, and a 4 per cent rise in the second year as part of new enterprise agreement for staff.
Staff earning more than $100,000 would have been given a 4.5 per cent wage rise in the first year and 3.5 per cent in the second year.
But NAB chief executive Ross McEwan revealed in a note to staff on Wednesday that the vote had seen 53.9 per cent reject the wage deal.
It saw 24,566 NAB staff vote in the wage ballot, which was four times as many who took part in the 2016 deal.
Mr McEwan described the result as “disappointing” but said they would seek feedback from staff.
“The outcome of the vote is disappointing, however, I acknowledge and respect that a majority of colleagues that voted had a different view,” Mr McEwan said.
“We will commence a process of talking with our colleagues to hear from you further and better understand why we have this outcome.
“In the meantime, the current Enterprise Agreement 2016 will continue to apply. We will listen carefully and consider your feedback. I will provide an update in the coming weeks.”
The company had also offered an extra week of paid leave each year for employees who have met their requirements for annual leave, rostered days off and long service leave within a financial year.
But the FSU claimed that the current offer attempted to claw back of conditions like annual leave loading and rostered days off.
Julia Angrisano, national secretary at FSU, previously said the proposed 5 per cent pay rise did not keep pace with inflation and the “meagre” pay offer was in contrast with Mr McEwan’s pay rise which went up 113 per cent in 2021 from $2.3 million to $5.3 million.
In regards to staff knocking back the pay offer, she accused the bank of “arrogance” in failing listen to staff’s concerns.
“Finance Sector Union members have rejected NAB’s attempt to ignore their concerns about the cost of living crisis and push through its agenda of cuts to real pay and conditions,” she said.
“NAB staff are angry that the bank refuses to do the right thing by its employees at the same time it is posting a $6.8 billion-dollar profit.
“NAB workers need genuine pay increases that recognise the increasing cost of living. They are also concerned about the excessive hours of work being demanded by NAB executives in order to meet minimum role expectations.”
It was the first time the union had opposed the bank’s proposed pay deal in a decade, with Ms Angrisano adding the union had written to NAB seeking to kick off wage negotiations again.
The FSU had been in negotiations with the bank since September and were seeking redundancy clauses for staff working in closed branches.
The big four have closed more than 550 bank branches across Australia since January 2020, according to the union.
“This is Mr McEwan’s opportunity to show NAB staff that he is willing to put his people before profits and achieve an Enterprise Agreement that recognises the contributions of employees,” Ms Angrisano added.
“The FSU looks forward to constructive negotiations that ensure our members’ concerns are prioritised.”