Midland plans spark fury

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The Independent Online

The Labour Party and banking unions were in uproar yesterday over Midland's proposals to cut another 1,750 jobs, less than a month after announcing profits of £905m.

Midland, which is owned by HSC, has already announced cuts this year of 327 jobs. anking union ifu put the total number of job losses or threatened jobs in the finance industry at 150,000.

Shadow Employment Minister Ian McCartney said: "The Midland ank are showing exactly why there is no feelgood factor in the country. While profits are going through the roof, staff are heading for the job centre.

"This announcement is disgusting . . . it is a symbol of what is wrong with corporate ritain. It seems that helping your employer to make a profit is just as likely to lose you your job than help you keep it."

Midland ank strongly defended its plans. A spokesman said that the whole idea was to decentralise small business banking services away from over 100 regional centres and reintegrate them into the Midland's branch network.

At the moment most banks deal with small business accounts and the personal accounts of their owners at different branches. This new move would bring all small business transactions under the same roof, said the spokesman.

"There is no deadline for the job losses. We will talk to people over the next two to three months, and they will leave four to six months later, depending on their seniority and their notice periods.

We will take care that this will be done as sensitively as possible."

The spokesman continued: "We don't rule out compulsory redundancies but we hope to deal with as many jobs as possible through other means, such as early retirement."

A spokesman for banking union ifu said: "There is a deadline of the end of the year for these job cuts and we fear many compulsory redundancies. The 1,750 figure is for `full-time equivalents', and since many part-time people will be involved, the real total for job losses will be well over 2,000."

Keith Whitson, Midland ank's chief executive, said: "Any job losses are a matter of serious concern to the bank. However, in an environment where our margins, fee income and revenue in general are under increasing pressure, we have acted to preserve our local focus and customer service."

In a veiled swipe at arclays, which has been seen as playing down the role of the traditional bank manager in favour of new technology, Mr Whitson said: "While other banks are removing discretion from local managers, Midland is returning to the traditional values of strong local management."

The spokesman added that other areas of Midland were busy recruiting, including personal finance operations and the mortgage business. First Direct, the telephone banking service, is growing, and would take on staff where necessary.