Heartland Bank workers went on strike after unsuccessful negotiations with the bank resulted in an increase to wages that union officials considered as below-market rates.
According to the FIRST Union, Heartland workers said their jobs intensified significantly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many feeling undervalued and underappreciated for the work they do.
Negotiations have been ongoing since May, and the recent strike action is a full withdrawal of labour.
“Bargaining with Heartland has been fraught, and members are taking strike action after engaging in good faith since their agreement expired in June of this year,” said Tali Williams, the secretary for retail and finance at FIRST Union.
“It's not an action taken lightly, but Heartland workers have had enough of being taken for granted and paid an estimated 20% to 30% below the industry average across bank brands. Heartland has been around for a long time, but they must now look at the competition and realise that workers can expect fair wages for the kind of work they do.”
In a statement sent to Insurance Business, Heartland Bank chief people & culture officer Keira Billot said: “Union members represent only 23 of 550 employees, and only eight members are striking. We have also seen a decrease in membership in the last 12 months, so the union's claims are not representative of the general position.”
Billot explained that the bank's approach to paying its people is reflected in its cost-to-income ratio, which is similar to that of other banks in the country.
“We strongly disagree with the union's claims and are confident that we pay employees fairly and conduct robust external benchmarking exercises to ensure this. Heartland also became a Living Wage employer earlier this year,” she continued.
“We have effectively given a 3% increase to our employees this year by changing the way we structure KiwiSaver. We have recognised the efforts of our employees this year in the form of an at minimum $500 recognition payment for those who were with Heartland prior to June 01, 2020, to acknowledge the extra effort our people made during a challenging year.”
“We've received unprecedented feedback from our people, expressing their gratitude and appreciation. We are hopeful that when we return to the bargaining table, we will be able to reach an agreement with First Union,” Billot concluded.