Australia's top banks are set to fire thousands of staff this year to offset low growth, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group expected kick off the latest round with several hundred job cuts, according to a bank workers union.

The banks, which are making record profits, are likely to go for 'forced retrenchment', offshore roles and stay away from replacing jobs, said Leon Carter, national secretary of the Finance Sector Union, which represents about 50,000 workers across the financial services sector.

ANZ, Australia's fourth-largest lender, has not yet set a number but the union's understanding was that job cuts would be in hundreds, Carter said adding employees at other major banks also faced a similar environment.

It is clear. Multiple hundreds of jobs will go at ANZ. They have not denied it, he said. The other banks face the same problems and will resort to the tricks of 1980's and 90's in cutting jobs.

ANZ and its bigger rivals Commonwealth Bank of Australia , Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank are among Australia's biggest employers with over 40,000 staff on each bank's roll.

There is some belt tightening going on in response to difficult market conditions and the slow down in the economy, a spokesman for ANZ said. We are still working through the detail.

While job cuts in the global banking industry is common amid jittery markets and low credit environment, Australian banks are coming off more-than a decade of almost uninterrupted growth that saw them adding staff , growing assets and profits severalfold.

Last year the four banks together made a record $25 billion (16 billion pounds) in profits but credit growth has dropped to the lowest level since the 1970s as households increase savings and corporates pay down debt forcing banks to focus on cost controls.

Officials at the other big banks said staff numbers would fluctuate as they adjust to a low growth environment though they did not have a target or any immediate plan for large staff cuts.

Last year in an interview, the chief executive of ANZ's Australian operations said the bank would focus on cost controls and trimming the total workforce in Australia over the next few years as core growth slows.

Westpac said late last year total head count fell by over 700 in the year to September 2011 with more falls seen in 2012. NAB's workforce in the same period fell by 553.

(Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Lincoln Feast)