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BBVA proposes closing 400 Catalunya Banc branches and reducing staff by 2,000

The Spanish banking giant BBVA, which purchased Catalunya Banc last July, is now proposing to shut down 400 branches of the acquired bank and reduce its staff by 2,000 employees (out of a total of 4,400 currently employed), according to trade union sources. At the end of April, the BBVA announced it would close 285 Catalunya Banc branches and reduce the staff by about 1,700 people. However, this Wednesday the Spanish bank has released higher figures and with this action is kicking off the official negotiation period with trade unions before it registers a mass layoff. The adjustment is to start already this year and would be completed by 2017, with the main part of it taking place during 2016. In theory it should only affect the branches that originally belonged to Catalunya Banc (CX) and the employees who were originally working for the former Catalan savings bank, and not those of the BBVA working in Catalonia. In April, Angel Cano, who is the CEO of the Spanish bank, stated that the adjustment would take place within the new integrated structure, not only in regard to the former CX branches and staff.

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10 June 2015 10:08 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish banking giant BBVA, which purchased Catalunya Banc last July, is now proposing to shut down 400 branches of the acquired bank and reduce its staff by 2,000 employees (out of a total of 4,400 currently employed), according to trade union sources. At the end of April, the BBVA announced it would close 285 Catalunya Banc branches and reduce the staff by about 1,700 people. However, this Wednesday the Spanish bank has released higher figures and with this action is kicking off the official negotiation period with trade unions before it registers a mass layoff. The adjustment is to start already this year and would be completed by 2017, with the main part of it taking place during 2016. In theory it should only affect the branches that originally belonged to Catalunya Banc (CX) and the employees who were originally working for the former Catalan savings bank, and not those of the BBVA working in Catalonia. In April, Angel Cano, who is the CEO of the Spanish bank, stated that the adjustment would take place within the new integrated structure, not only in regard to the former CX branches and staff. The CX staff has already gone through several staff adjustments in the last 3 years.


The figures known this Wednesday have been released by the BBVA's Human Resources department to the representatives of former CX workers. They are significantly higher than the figures publicly announced a month-and-a-half ago. Back then, when presenting the BBVA's results for the first quarter of 2015, Cano stated that 285 branches would be closed in Catalonia, with not necessarily all of them being from the former CX. He also stated that some 1,700 staff members would be made redundant or forced to retire, and that this would not only affect employees from the former CX. Now, it seems the bank has reviewed the figures and has changed its mind about which parts of the BBVA group are targeted, or else it is a negotiation strategy in front of the trade unions.

This Wednesday's meeting is the first one that formally opens the official negotiation period that is obligatory before a company can register a mass layoff file (known as ERO in Catalan or ERE in Spanish). Once the ERO is formally registered, the negotiations will have to be concluded within a maximum of 30 days. The union representatives have asked the BBVA to present the ERO after the summer holidays, in order not to interfere with all the holiday schedules and shifts planned for July and August.

The first request from the Spanish bank was that the 4,400 former employees of CX standardise their salaries and professional categories to those foreseen in the BBVA's agreement framework. This would mean that 98% of CX staff would have their salary reduced, since they have higher wages higher than those earned by BBVA employees in equivalent positions.

To face all this, the union representatives do not rule out the possibility of organising protest actions to be undertaken by the former CX staff, since they consider the company's conditions to be "abusive". However, the company has argued that the staff adjustments should be carried out through voluntary redundancy or retirement as much as possible, together with other measures that are less traumatic for the CX staff. Such voluntary actions should include early retirement, compensated redundancy and partially paid leaves of absence for a 5-year period.

The workers’ representatives have rejected the initial plan. Instead of the current offer, they have proposed that the company offer early retirements for people older than 53. By doing this, unions estimate that staff size would already be reduced by about 1,800 people. The age 53 has been chosen as it was the age agreed for early retirements in the negotiation process between the BBVA and representatives from the former Catalan saving bank Unnim, which was also bought by BBVA during the economic crisis.

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  • Catalunya Banc's headquarters, located near Barcelona's Cathedral (by ACN)

  • Catalunya Banc's headquarters, located near Barcelona's Cathedral (by ACN)