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Current as of 25/05/17 07:40PM NZST

Westpac branches closed for strike

More than 20 Westpac bank branches have closed this morning due to a strike by staff.

The staff, members of the financial services union Finsec, are striking for a bigger pay increase than the one on the table and for no sales targets in their contracts.

Westpac spokesman Mark Watts earlier said the bank had contingency plans in place. "We're going to do our very best to keep things open across the network... I can't be precise about which [branches] may be closed, it's possible some will be," he said.

He later revealed 30 branches were shut, though this was revised to 23 later in the morning. "I don't know what your maths is like, but 30 out of 200 branches isn't too bad," Mr Watts had said.

The bank had been able to "redeploy'' some staff and shuffle others around to allow some branches to open later. However it was a "fluid situation'' and could change during the day.

Head office staff with previous branch experience are working in branches.

Mr Watts said: "In other places you'll see branch managers and other senior people taking on sort of less traditional roles and helping out where they can.

"It's a fact that the level of service in some branches might be reduced..."

He hoped many services would be unaffected and Westpac had placed advertisements telling customers what was happening.

Finsec campaign director Karen Skinner said the staff would be taking to the streets to tell people about their plight.

"Rallies will be held in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland later this morning, as well as most centres around the country," she said.

Ms Skinner said most towns would see staff on the streets picketing and handing out leaflets to the public.

"It is shameful that staff have been given no choice but to take to the streets to be treated fairly and be allowed to act ethically."

Finsec believes Westpac has some of the lowest pay rates in the banking industry -- many of the striking workers have starting salaries of between $26,227 and $36,171.

The staff are also unhappy about having sales targets for debt products such as credit cards and loans built into their contracts.

Mr Watts said Westpac felt the targets were a crucial part of the contracts.


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