It is a ”colossal mistake” for British bank Barclays PLC (NYSE: BCS) to cut 1,700 jobs, the Unite Trade Union says. “Cashiers, personal bankers, operational specialists, branch managers, and assistant manager roles will be cut throughout 2014,” the trade union said in a statement.
Barclays responded with a statement of its own. “As a result of technological changes, we will be able to provide better service for our customers with fewer staff in our branches. Today, we have outlined a voluntary redundancy scheme for those colleagues who are interested.” The technological changes, Barclays explains, involve how people interact with banks. “The way in which our customers access their banking services is changing rapidly. More and more people are choosing to use smart phones and technology for everyday transactions — using branches only when they need access to expertise.”
Another change by the bank was introduced earlier in November. Starting in early 2014, Barclays will offer banking seven days a week in Asda retail stores. The program will begin with four trial banks. The Head of Barclays Retail and Business Bank, Steve Cooper, said the initiative is the result of speaking with customers who told the bank, “their time is precious, so would benefit from being able to multi-task, park easily, and visit branches with longer opening hours.”
“This partnership with Asda means they can do their food shop and bank at the same time, with the opportunity for a new flexible banking experience in a way that’s most convenient for our customers,” Cooper said. Unite’s National Officer, Dominic Hook, disagrees that staff reductions can help customers. “These employees deliver high levels of service that customers of the bank benefit from. Such a massive reduction will be very detrimental to the bank and will also be hugely challenging for the staff remaining.”
Unite was even more displeased with the job cuts because they come one week after Barclays revealed it was closing centers in Coventry and Dartford. Combined, the centers have about 600 employees. On the Coventry closing, ITV says Barclays stated that, “We are focused on finding alternative employment options for all affected staff elsewhere within the Group, which is something we know is desirable for many.”
Bloomberg reports that in February, the CEO of Barclays, Antony Jenkins, stated by 2015, he planned to reduce annual expenses by 1.7 billion pounds ($2.7 billion), and eliminate 3,700 jobs.