Unicaja Banco offices. File photograph. / SUR

Unicaja bank plans 1,500 job cuts and 400 branch closures after merger with Liberbank

The announcement follows other recent cuts in Spain's banking sector with about 6,500 jobs lost at CaixaBank, Santander (3,500), BBVA (2,700) and Sabadell, with ongoing negotiations for 1,700 losses

ALBERTO GÓMEZ

After months of speculation, the scope of the cuts that Unicaja Banco plans to implement once the integration of Liberbank is completed have been announced.

On Tuesday, 5 October, the Malaga-based bank announced that it plans to cut 1,513 staff – 508 from central services and 1,005 from branches – which represent more than 15 per cent of its workforce. These job losses would be added to the 415 early retirement deals that have already been signed.

The staff cuts at Unicaja, now the fifth largest banking entity in the country, will be added to the recent job losses that have shaken Spain’s banking sector with about 6,500 at CaixaBank, Santander (3,500), BBVA (2,700) and Sabadell (1,700).

Modification of working conditions

The banking group’s proposal also involves the substantial modification of staff working conditions in terms of geographical mobility which, until now, was limited to 25 kilometres, a maximum that the bank intends to suspend. Unicaja has also announced that the human resources policies of both merged companies would be "harmonised", according to sources, "but without incurring more costs than the current ones", something that could harm Liberbank's workforce, who generally have higher salaries. The unions translate this as "downward wage harmonisation."

Unicaja Banco has also put the closure of 395 branches, about 30 per cent of all its offices, on the table. The company says that the job cut and branch closure process "is subject to negotiation" and is aimed at "improving the profitability and efficiency of the bank."

The company and workers' representatives met for the first time for talks on Tuesday after the establishment of the negotiating board at the end of September. The company's proposals confirmed the worst suspicions of the unions, who feared the cuts that the merger by absorption (59.5 per cent of the new entity for Unicaja Banco and 40.5 per cent for Liberbank) would bring.

Union opposition

The General Union of Workers (UGT) yesterday showed its opposition "to any process that entails non-voluntary departures" and demands that workers on compensated leave of absence from Liberbank (about 700) "be included in the numbers”.

The next meeting of the negotiation process between the bank and the unions will take place in Madrid next week, on 14 and 15 October.