Banco Santander is a huge employer in Spain, and indeed wider afield, and recently the banking giant merged with Banesto. The result of this has been a programme of branch closures and “voluntary redundancies” offered to staff who wish to leave. These redundancies are entirely voluntary, it has been stressed, but how voluntary are they really?
In the first round of redundancies, some 300 employees have been offered severance packages and 650 early retirement in a schedule expected to end in four days time on the 28th. Branch closures will then begin in September – some 500 of them this year, with a further 250 in 2014. Some staff, however, are complaining about pressure being imposed on them to leave, and some unions – of the many involved in the banking sector – are saying that it’s a covert sacking en masse, something that should be conducted through recognized formal procedures, and not as a softly softly scam rushed through in the holiday period in order to try to escape notice.
Worse, although Santander is saying publicly that the bank will accept the refusal of any staff offered voluntary redundancy who wish to stay in work, reports increase that the staff themselves are being threatened with negative reviews and a reduced offer – if any offer at all – in future lay-off rounds. Unions say that they would deplore such redundancy practices at any time, but that to carry out such a programme at a time of record unemployment and with a national economy in crisis is tantamount to criminality.