Barclays axes 1,000 in new round of cuts

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The Independent Online
Barclays Bank announced the loss of a further 1,000 jobs yesterday, less than a month after the high street clearer posted more than pounds 2bn of pre-tax profits for 1995. The bank said the job cuts would be voluntary, with staff invited to take part in an "early leavers scheme".

The news sparked an immediate protest from both the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union (Bifu) and the Barclays' staff association, Unifi. "This announcement comes only a week after the bank told 500 staff in its nationwide network of regional offices and 450 locally employed cleaners that there was no longer any future for them in Barclays Bank," said Unifi, which claims to represent more than two-thirds of the bank's workforce.

It said that the worst affected areas would be in London and the surrounding area as well as south-east and north-east England.

Barclays said the cuts are part of a continuing policy of cost control and rationalisation which has so far led to 18,500 jobs being lost at the bank over the last five years. "The nature of jobs will continue to change within the banking industry for the foreseeable future as we continue to concentrate on customer service roles," said a bank spokesman. He added: "We hope the early leavers scheme will prove attractive and stress that job losses will be completely voluntary."

Bifu, the banking union, accused Barclays of getting rid of some of its more experienced staff. It said the redundancy programme will remove 647 senior clerical staff by 26 July and 361 managers by the end of the year.

"These are the people the bank and customers can ill- afford to lose," said Rob MacGregor, assistant secretary of Bifu. "We're talking of some of the most experienced managers and clerical staff left in Barclays."

Bifu has warned that altogether 10,000 more jobs could go at Barclays by the end of the decade, on top of the higher figure of 21,000 that it claims has already gone since 1991. Andrew Buxton, Barclays' chairman, recently said the union's claim of 10,000 future losses "may be a reasonable estimate of the trend over the next five years".

The cuts at Barclays are part of a broad trend across the banking and retail financial services sector generally, as fierce competition puts a premium on reducing costs, while radical advances in new technology are dispensing with many of the services traditionally done by staff members.

Staff numbers across the banking industry were already 20 per cent down to 290,000 at the beginning of last year from the peak of 350,000 in 1989. There are suggestions from the likes of Sir Brian Pitman, chairman of Lloyds Bank, that a further 20 per cent will be lost by the turn of the century.

But the pace of cuts is slowing from the massive shake-out in the early years of the Nineties, when the banks tried to counter the worst effects of the recession by slashing costs.