Unions representing employees of KBC, the Leuven-based bank and insurer, have expressed relief now that the bank has revealed how it intends to cut 1,400 jobs over the next three years.
The representative of the largest union at the bank, ACV Puls, said he was “relieved but anxious”. The bank plans to cut the jobs by relying on the natural flow of people retiring and leaving for other reasons, rather than resorting to mass redundancies as occurred at ING bank. “But I have to wonder how that will affect the pressure of work,” Dirk Debackere told De Standaard.
For the administrators’ union BBTK-SETCa, representative Jan Steenwinckel said, “The bank is counting on natural outflow, but the work still has to get done in the meantime. However, he also expressed relief that the rumours of mass job losses turned out to be false.
The liberal union ACLVB-CGSLB expressed the most reserve. Representative Maarten Dedeyne warned of a false sense of relief, and pointed out that the bank’s jobcentre, where departing staff will be steered towards other jobs, is heavily overworked, and the reinsertion programme is limited in time; any member of staff who has not found a new job within a certain period then loses the job centre’s support.
Debackere, meanwhile, denied that claim, arguing that the jobcentre has never been less overworked than now. If necessary, he said, reinforcements could come from the bank’s HR division.
The bank announced the plan at 08:10 AM this morning after a brief extraordinary board meeting starting at 07:45 AM. The 1,400 jobs will be spread across the bank’s head office, support services and the network of branches; 300 of the functions will be taken over by KBC’s network in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Contracts with outside collaborators such as temps and computer staff, will not be renewed. The bank pointed out in a statement that the number of natural departures at present is around 500 full-time equivalents a year. Given that margin, the bank said, there will be no need for a plan for mass collective redundancies.
“An organization like KBC is a living organization,” said CEO Johan Thijs in a statement. “Everything that lives, changes. As an organization and as an employer, we prepare ourselves for the future. The adaptation of our group-wide governance is essential and an inevitable next step to respond to the new environment in which new entrants challenge the incumbents and in which customers expect an easier, hassle-free service and faster decision-making. Organizations need to be more agile allowing them to take decisions faster and implement changes more swiftly. As a result of this exercise, our organization will be more agile and flatter, with fewer management layers and a larger span-of-control. Consequently, customer solutions can be implemented with an improved throughput-time and after a faster decision-making process, in which our employees have a more empowered role.”