A volatile financial climate — thanks to a high Aussie dollar and pressures from Europe — is resulting in thousands of Australian jobs being cut from banking, retail and manufacturing industries.

One thousand Australian jobs will be cut from ANZ this year and government pressure over maintaining interest rates forced the job reductions, the bank announced yesterday.

“The decision (job cuts) might have had less urgency around it had we moved our rates more quickly,” said CEO Phil Chronican.

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But customers are voting with their dollars, with a rise in Australians shifting banks, notes Tim Colebatch at The Age:

The amount switched to other banks, building societies and credit unions in this state soared 50 per cent in two years, hitting $3.6 billion in the December quarter, up from $2.4 billion in the same quarter of 2009.

Blaming banks for rising rates isn’t always fair, argues Howard minister Peter Reith at The Drum:

“Instead of bank bashing, Treasurer Wayne Swan should explain what is happening rather than trying to lay blame. It is all pretty obvious; the price of money is rising and our banks have to pay for it. It’s like the bananas; when the price goes up you either cut consumption or resign yourself to the higher price. It’s pointless to blame the middleman. Similarly the Coalition should drop its suggestion that the failure of the banks to respond to Swan is because he has no authority.”

ANZ isn’t alone in cutting jobs, report Scott Murdoch and Annabel Hepworth in The Australian:

“ANZ warned that a total of 1000 jobs would be cut by October — the largest confirmed job-cutting program by an Australian bank — after it shed about 130 jobs a fortnight ago and yesterday slashed 490 jobs, largely in Victoria. Thousands of jobs have been slashed across the financial sector in response to a slowdown in lending and higher funding costs related to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

Westpac has recently announced that it is cutting 560 jobs, while last week Suncorp said it was moving another 65 jobs to India this year and Macquarie revealed that it had cut 1000 jobs, either axing positions or shifting them to India and The Philippines.”

Bedding chain Sleep City, which has 64 stores and 450 staff, has just gone into voluntary administration. Qantas is also expected to announce a review of local maintenance jobs.

Aluminium producers Alcoa announced last week it was reviewing its operations in Point Henry — and the 600 jobs that come with it. Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes headed to Canberra yesterday with Alcoa workers to plead with the prime minister for government assistance until the Australia dollar lowers again.

“When that happens a plant like Point Henry will become extremely profitable again,” argued Howes, noting that the plant was profitable when the dollar was at parity.

“If you don’t manufacture aluminium in this country, if you don’t manufacture steel in this country, we have no chance of having a value-adding or downstream manufacturing industry,” added Howes, noting that big banks received help during the Global Financial Crisis.

But it’s not all bad news for workers. Holden signed a record deal yesterday which will see incomes raised for its 4000 staff by around 22% by 2014.

It makes no sense to keep maintaining industries that are heavy polluters and only make up a very small amount of jobs, writes Judith Sloan in The Australian:

“Julia Gillard has told us that we are going to ‘build a new Australian economy’. But if we are building a new economy, why would we worry about the old bits, such as the sub-scale and unprofitable car industry or the old technology, emissions-intensive aluminium industry?

It’s hard to see what’s new about these rust-bucket industries.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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