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Bank workers' union and community unite to keep open Ruatōria’s last bank

Date of Release: 
Friday, May 29, 2015

If Westpac decides to close its Ruatōria branch, locals will have to drive 200 kilometres to reach the nearest bank says FIRST Union President Syd Keepa.

“We’re standing with the affected workers and the local community to keep their bank branch open.”

“Westpac is the last bank on the rural East Coast. If the bean counters in Auckland or Sydney decide to close the branch then locals are left without banking options,” says Keepa.  

“Less than half of all households in Ruatōria have access to the internet meaning internet banking is impossible for many. Just over 60 percent of all households have access to a telephone meaning phone banking is out of reach for many locals too”.  

“Last year Westpac made a record profit of $864 million after tax, that’s up 13 percent on the previous year. In 2015 the bank has already made a half year profit of $441m. They can afford to keep servicing the Ruatōria branch,” says Keepa.

According to local FIRST Union organiser Colleen Ryan, the bank operates like none other she has seen.

 “The Ruatōria branch operates like banks once did, face-to-face. Unlike other branches where the focus has shifted to meeting sales targets the Ruatōria branch still provides a service”.

 “Locals pop into the branch to do their deposits and withdrawals, but many locals also come in for things we no longer associate with our bank branches like financial advice on how to manage rent payments or food costs”.    

 “The branch workers are providing a community service in tough conditions. They’re currently working out of a shipping container and still have to meet onerous sales targets, even though they service a small rural community”.

Consultation runs until 20 June and FIRST Union is joining the affected branch workers and the community in opposition to the proposed closure.  

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