Westpac has entered into an agreement to sell its banking operations in the Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga to the Bank of South Pacific Limited (BSP) for $125 million.
But Cook Islands Workers Association (CIWA) president Anthony Turua said the sale, which will take effect in mid-2015, in the middle of the Cook Islands’ 50th celebrations, would have caught many workers by surprise.
“CIWA feels government intervention should take place as there are lots of uncertainties out there among workers who are customers of Westpac,” he said.
Turua said CIWA’s main concerns were questions over what BSP would offer the Cook Islands, what will happen to Westpac staff and uncertainty over the smooth transition promised by Westpac.
“Westpac operates in Australia and New Zealand and has an international reputation, whereas the new BSP bank operates in PNG and Fiji. Therefore local customers could be facing competitive fees for remittance to suppliers and other services,” he said.
Already workers had indicated that they would move to ANZ or BCI if they were not satisfied or felt they were not fully informed about products offered by BSP, he said.
“There is a lot of uncertainty out there regarding the new bank changes and what implications the sale will have for workers with investments, loans and mortgages with Westpac.
“Let’s hope it does not add to growing depopulation concerns which end up with the bank taking away local businesses and properties around the Cook Islands.” - PW