Troubled Barclays Bank to axe one in ten of 60,000 staff

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The Independent Online
BARCLAYS BANK announced plans yesterday to scrap 6,000 jobs as part of a fundamental shake-up of its high street and corporate businesses.

While the company emphasised the necessity of the changes and the "generosity" of the severance package, employees registered their anger that they first heard the news on the radio.

The company felt obliged to abide by City rules and inform the Stock Exchange before its employees. The bank and union leaders are to press the Government to intervene to change regulations so in future staff can be told before anyone else.

Barclays insisted the redundancies - which make up 10 per cent of the workforce - would be voluntary. Some staff registered their scepticism.

The management said the shake-up would cost pounds 400m, but would save pounds 200m a year in running costs. It would pave the way for the introduction of new technology, the centralisation of many of the bank's financial processes, but would not involve closure of branches.

Sir Peter Middleton, chairman and chief executive of the bank, said: "On a personal level this sort of announcement is very sad. These are loyal employees."

According to some employees the "rumour mill" had been at work for some weeks, but the scale of the cuts was a shock.

Senior officials at Unifi, the bank's union, were privy to its plans for four months, but were been sworn to secrecy. Iain MacLean of Unifi said he and his colleagues had spent time negotiating a severance package that he described as a model for the industry.

Employees will receive up to 139 weeks' pay, which means that the most senior grades covered by the union, who earn more than pounds 70,000 a year, would receive about pounds 200,000. Junior staff with little or no service would get 12 weeks' money.

Mr MacLean said he would be seeking an early meeting with ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry over the Stock Exchange rules. The regulations are the subject of tribunal cases brought by MSF, the manufacturing union, which believes Royal Sun Alliance and United Friendly broke European law when they announced cuts without consulting employees or their representatives. The Unifi official said Barclays' behaviour stood in "stark contrast" as management had consulted the union.

Nevertheless Mr MacLean registered his strong disquiet: "We are furious that Stock Exchange rules require the bank to give it priority even when it comes to employment issues. It is ludicrous and unacceptable."

Shirley Hall, who works at the Havant branch in Hampshire, said that management seemed to want to get rid of older members of staff. Ms Hall, who has worked for Barclays for 30 years, said: "These are the people with responsibilities, whose children are at university. It is difficult to comprehend why they are prepared to lose all that experience."

Morag Ward, who works at the bank's regional centre in Reading, said while some people had found the announcement a shock, others were quite prepared to leave. "I'm concerned about the ones who have given years of loyal service but who do not want to go. It will be very hard for them." She believed that after the company had trawled for volunteers for six months there would be compulsory redundancies.

There will be job losses at all levels, from senior managers to clerks, and they will be spread throughout the retail and corporate banking divisions, although an insurance call centre in Croydon, south London, will be shut with the loss of 60 jobs.

The bank has been through some torrid times lately. A drop in profits of 20 per cent last year was followed by the resignation of Martin Taylor as chief executive. After his departure former US Marine Michael O'Neill was appointed. He resigned on grounds of ill health before completing a single day's work.