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    Politicians attack KBC restructuring plans

    © Belga

    Politicians from the left have attacked the restructuring plan announced this week by KBC bank, which involves the loss of 1,400 jobs over the next three years.

    Although the plan, which the bank assures will involve no compulsory redundancies, was generally accepted by unions as “less bad than expected,” Flemish socialist president John Crombez and PTB/PVDA fraction leader Raoul Hedebouw have both issued statements condemning the plans.

    Posting on Twitter, Crombez (photo) compared the support given to the banks by government during the banking crisis a few years ago with their hunger for private profits now.

    How difficult is it to tell it like it is? The banks that only continue to exist because the taxpayer coughed up 25 billion euros, now get rid of thousands of people to ensure their hundreds of millions of profits,” he wrote. “They’re now well off, while the taxpayer goes further and further down.”

    Crombez’ statement, while tagged #KBC, also includes in the calculation the plans introduced successively by ING and BNP Paribas Fortis, which also include job losses.

    Karel Van Eetvelt, director general of the financial industry regulator Febelfin, accused Crombez of a “populist tweet”.

    Companies that do not adapt and make no profit go broke, and are then no good to anyone,” he replied, also on Twitter. “Let’s first of all work together to guarantee those who have fallen out of the boat a decent working future.”

    Further to the left, Hedebouw pointed to the 2.5 billion in profits posted by KBC in 2018. “Apparently the shareholders can never get enough, so KBC is scrapping 1,400 jobs. They would do better to cut dividends,” he tweeted.

    The KBC plan involves cancelling contracts for 400 external contractors, and relying for the rest on natural wastage, which accounts for 500 jobs a year. The jobs will be lost across the company, including head office in Leuven, support service and the nationwide branch network. Unions have expressed concern, however, over the increased pressure of work on those who remain as 500 colleagues leave every year without being replaced.

    I hope the intention here is not to organise burn-outs,” said ACV representative Dirk Debackere.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times