João Pascoal, a member of the Executive Secretariat of the National Workers’ Committee of Santander Totta, accuses the bank’s management of carrying out a campaign of intimidation against workers who do not accept the termination proposals by mutual agreement provided for in the restructuring plan that started this October at the institution.
“Most of the workers who were called to the meetings do not want to terminate and are illegally threatened in these meetings, of having to sign because the bank does not want them and that later they will be dismissed without these indemnities”, advances João Pascoal, denouncing that “the Administration of Banco Santander Totta started a process of dismissing workers ”.
The Workers’ Commission distances itself here from the terminology used by Santander Totta, which, according to this CT member, refers to the exits as part of a “permanent reorganization” and not a “restructuring”, a process that, at the end of the first semester this year, it has already laid off 167 workers and closed 25 branches, in view of the structure that existed twelve months before, according to the figures provided by the bank itself.
“This process takes place at a time when the bank is hiring new workers at a lower cost and also entering into new contracts with outsourcing”, Adds the Workers’ Commission, pointing out that one of the criteria for the dismissal of workers involves the option of precarious work.
Negotiation in hostile climate
Giving the impression that the negotiations are being carried out under a hostile climate, João Pascoal explains that “the meetings take place in Bank buildings in Lisbon, Porto and Faro” with “the Human Resources being advised by a company external consultants who pressure workers and even threaten them ”.
According to João Pascoal, the “dirty work” of the workers’ dismissal process rests with the aforementioned consulting company, which, after the meetings, begins to exert “unspeakable and manifestly illegal pressure” on those employees who do not accept the values or conditions of termination.
In this sense, underlines that workers’ representative, “the consultant has no legal right to contact workers or to tell them that they have to sign a termination contract”.
Unions attentive to external consultancy
A statement this Thursday from the banking sector unions took the same critical line from the Santander Totta Workers’ Committee, warning that it would not allow any pressure or threats on workers.
Confirming that “many workers” at Santander Totta are being called for termination by mutual agreement, the Financial Sector (Mais) and Central Bank (SBC) unions remind that these workers are free to accept or refuse what is proposed to them during meetings.
“Many workers at Banco Santander Totta are being called to a meeting with human resources, at which an external consultant is also present. The objective is to present them with a proposal for termination by mutual agreement, with the compensation of compensation ”, says the joint statement of Mais Sindicato and SBC, warning Santander from the outset that they will not accept that workers will be the target“ of any kind of pressure or threat ”.
Mais syndicate and SBC also advise the bank’s management to discard any scenario of extinction of the job or collective dismissal; to the workers, the unions reiterate their willingness to help them during the process and advise for now that they resort to legal support so that they are sure “of the consequences of their decision”.
Contacted by RTP to respond to these accusations, Santander Totta did not respond to our emails until the time of publication of this article.
167 fewer workers and 25 fewer agencies
In July, Santander Totta revealed the half-yearly results according to which at the end of the first semester it had 167 fewer workers (6,163) and 25 (491) branches compared to the same period in 2019.
Profits of 172.9 million euros up to June represented a 37% drop compared to the same period last year. The bank, owned by the Spanish group Santander, then announced record losses of almost 11 billion euros in the first half, according to the statement.
Banking crisis threatens workers
At the end of the first semester, banks operating in Portugal had 3,965 branches, down 117 compared to June 2019, according to the Banking Sector Indicators Summary released by the Portuguese Banking Association (APB).
As for workers, in domestic activity, there were 46,714 at the end of the first half, in this case practically stable (plus 41) compared to the first half of 2019, still according to the association that represents the main banks operating in Portugal.
In recent years a reduction in the structure of banks has been taking place and, despite the slight gain in workers indicated in these data, analysts predict that in the coming months the sector will cut staff in aggregate terms.
At the end of July, in an analysis contextualized by the current covid-19 pandemic, the rating agency Fitch considered that, in the face of this new threat, one of the measures that banks would take would be further restructuring.