Big banks will cut thousands of workers this year, a process that has continued since the last crisis but should reach a new peak in 2021, with even BCP and Santander Totta admitting to resorting to layoffs.
At BCP, the plan to cut workers began last week, with the bank calling every employee who wanted to leave and offering terms of termination (compensation values from the start). Workers may leave on early retirement (for those aged 57 or over) or upon termination by mutual agreement. In this case, whoever leaves upon termination by agreement does not receive unemployment benefit.
But the bank also admitted that it may resort to “unilateral measures”, and last week spoke in a meeting with unions about collective dismissal, noting that it would cover “all those who do not accept the negotiation process.”
The BCP aims to leave up to 1,000 workers, according to unions affiliated with the UGT (Union of Workers of the Financial Sector in Portugal, Union of Banking Workers of the Center and Mais Union). Between 2012 and 2020, BCP has already reduced nearly 2,000 workers in Portugal, where at the end of last year it had 7,013 employees.
Santander Tota also admitted resorting to layoffs.
It said at the end of April that in the first quarter it had approved the layoffs of 68 workers and announced the layoffs of 100 to 150 employees whose “jobs had become redundant”. The subject of the dispute is mainly the workers from the closed counters who were suggested to leave but did not accept.
In early May, after talks with unions affiliated with the UGT, the bank “temporarily” decided to postpone unilateral measures for the departure of workers.
union protest احتجاج
The National Union of Banking Technical Staff organized several protests against the dismissals, calling for a phased voluntary termination program, without pressure and on fair and balanced terms.
Lusa contacted an official source who sent more information for the end of the month, when voluntary adhesions are still being evaluated at picnics. Whoever leaves upon termination by mutual agreement is not entitled to unemployment benefit.
On the union side, sources contacted by Lusa fear that Santander Totta will also move toward a more robust process of letting go, given the information they have is that they are accepting to let go of fewer workers than the bank wants.
At the end of 2020, Santander Tota had 5,980 employees.
According to several union leaders contacted by Lusa, thousands of workers will be leaving major banks this year. They also consider that the operations will be more stringent than those that occurred during the last crisis and the intervention of the “troika”, where there are large banks that recognize layoffs, because the compensation proposed now is less and even because it is so. It is not equal to firing 1,000 workers out of a total of 8,000 or a total of 6,000.
On the part of the banks, the reasons for reducing the number of employees are generally the same. They justify technological development, change in customer habits (few trips to agencies, long distance interaction), poor profitability of the business, and the need to adapt costs to changing business and improve efficiency.
In September 2020, Montepio Bank announced an “extended plan” to leave workers, through early retirement and termination of employment contracts, with the aim of reducing between 600 and 900 employees.
According to an official source from Montepio, in the first phase of the program (in the last quarter of 2020), 235 employees left, of whom 124 were retired and 111 were terminated by mutual agreement (giving access to unemployment benefits, as the bank obtained from the government the status of the company that passes restructuring). The second phase of the program began this year with exit proposals by mutual agreement.
At the end of 2020, Montepio Bank Group had 3,721 employees.
At Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), from which about 2,000 workers left between 2017 and 2020 as part of the restructuring process, management said the new headcount targets will only be in place when the 2021-2024 plan is approved. It is known that the General Bank still has open plans to terminate by mutual agreement and early retirement.
At the end of 2020, CGD had 6,583 employees in Portugal. An official source said that 73 employees left in the first quarter for repairs, termination of service by mutual agreement or other reasons.
According to worker sources, Novo Banco, which cut 2,200 employees between the end of 2014 and 2020, maintains proposals for early retirement and termination by mutual agreement (which guarantees access to unemployment benefits).
But the data already in place is the same as that released in February, when the bank indicated that the goal is to cut 750 workers by 2023 because, according to an official source, there is nothing new.
At the end of 2020, Novo Banco had 4,582 employees.
At BPI, a union source indicated that the bank is proposing early retirement for employees. However, bank officials did not provide public information on staff reduction projects.
“Currently we do not have any orderly exit plan in place, but exit negotiations can always take place by mutual agreement. In these circumstances, the question does not apply,” said an official BPI source. The bank closed in 2020 with 4,622 workers.
According to the long-running Banco de Portugal series, between 2009 and 2019, banks operating in Portugal reduced nearly 13 thousand employees. In 2020, only 1,200 jobs were cut in the five main banks operating in Portugal (CGD, BCP, Novo Banco, Santander Totta, BPI).
Structural downsizing (leaving workers and closing branches) is common in all European banks. The staff reduction that has already come since the previous crisis (beginning in 2008) should gain new strength, buoyed by the pandemic crisis. According to analysts, banks based their profits on cost reduction.