From Jesús Aguado
MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of BBVA employees held a one-day strike on Wednesday, which several Spanish unions called to protest the bank’s layoff plans.
According to the national union, Comisiones Obreras, the largest in the financial sector, it was the first national bank stoppage of this kind in 30 years.
The same union also called on Caixabank workforce to go on strike on June 9 against their 8,000 job cuts, one of the largest in Spanish history.
Spanish bank employees recently protested against plans by five lenders to cut around 18,000 jobs.
In April, BBVA announced plans to cut 3,800 jobs, but later offered to cut that number to around 3,300 to accommodate customers’ shift to online banking.
“Digitization is something that we impose on the customer and not the other way around, digitization is a lie. Many customers do not want to know about it, ”said Jennifer Mir, a 42-year-old BBVA employee, told Reuters during protests in front of a bank building in the center of Madrid.
CCOO is calling for all cuts to be through voluntary layoffs and early retirement, while also calling for higher financial compensation for those who leave BBVA.
The bank has around 2,400 branches in Spain. According to the CCOO, between 75% of offices in the northeastern city of Zaragoza to 100% in most areas of Andalusia closed their doors, while more than 70% of the roughly 23,000 employees went on strike.
BBVA, which refused to take the possible impact of the strike on its retail business, added that 35% of its workforce in Spain had joined the one-day shutdown.
“Those of us in the offices are hardest hit and under the greatest pressure to sell financial products like insurance and mutual funds with incredible sales targets,” Nicolas Munoz, a 56-year-old BBVA employee, told Reuters.
Munoz also complained about the staff shortage.
“There’s only two of us in the office and we have too many tasks to do,” he said.
According to the CCOO, thousands of people took to the streets in 28 Spanish cities to protest the BBVA’s plans, which coincided with government demands to cut the pay of top bankers.
Rebeca Casado, a 43-year-old customer, told Reuters outside a closed BBVA branch in Madrid that she didn’t really care about the strike as she was used to online channels.
“It is true, however, that I deposit money at least once a month because I don’t know of any other way.”
(Reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by Angus MacSwan)