Possible merger between BBVA and Banco Sabadell puts unions on alert

Minister of Economy avoids commenting and reminds that supervisors advise concentration

The announcement of the start of talks between BBVA and Banco Sabadell on a potential merger has not gone unnoticed by the majority unions and by the workers of the two entities. They have expressed their concern about a possible merger in terms of jobs, and more so at a time when the financial sector is focusing on "cost reduction", as the CEO of Banco Sabadell himself, Jaume Guardiola, acknowledged on Tuesday at the 27th Financial Meeting organised by Deloitte. In fact, Banco Sabadell has already announced that it intends to cut 1,800 jobs with early retirements and redundancies, in a measure that will become effective in the first quarter of 2021.

The CCOO union sections of the two banks have called on both BBVA and Banco Sabadell to ensure that the possible operation is carried out "with full guarantees". For CCOO, the most represented union in both banks, "it is essential that if the operation is carried out, a labour agreement is drawn up to protect working conditions for staff", which between the two banks totals almost 40,000 people, as detailed by CCOO.

In fact, the union's demands are fourfold and very clear: labour guarantees, voluntary departures if redundancies are required, maintaining and improving wage and working conditions, and a business plan on the viability of the job prospects if the merger goes ahead.

Union UGT was also very concerned about the number of jobs that may be lost. In fact, its general secretary, Pepe Álvarez, has asked the two entities to "be aware" of the effort made by citizens in the previous crisis to "sustain" them. Álvarez has also shown concern about the digitalisation process towards which the banks are moving, since for the secretary general of UGT this leads to the disappearance of offices. On Tuesday morning, Guardiola acknowledged that "the solution is to move towards a more centralised and digital model, reducing the cost of physical spaces.

The unions think very likely that the merger will go ahead. In this sense, CCOO has assured that it has already begun to work on a response.

Prudence and suspicion in politics

Reactions, however, have also come from the political sphere, with some messages being stronger than others. The Spanish government has been more silent. At the press conference following the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, did not wish to comment on the announcement, although she did point out that the supervisors are advising bank mergers. "They can contribute to strengthening the financial system," concluded Calviño.

Meanwhile, the president of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, expressed the hope that the possible merger would not result in a reduction of jobs in Valencia. He also showed optimism about the possibility of "strengthening" the relationship with the two banks.

On the other hand, the leader of Más País and congressman Íñigo Errejón, who claimed that he "sees democracy under threat" by the boom in bank mergers, has been the toughest. Errejón said that the news leaves customers with "fewer options", while it opens the door tolarger entities with "more power". CUP congresswoman Mireia Vehí was also critical, asserting that the merger sounds like 2008, referring to "few securities and responses".

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