The Co-operative Bank has announced plans to cut around 350 jobs, as it closes 18 branches and reduces middle management and head office roles, to cope with the unrelenting blows of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Manchester-based bank said low interest rates during the pandemic hit income of all lenders, and chief executive Andrew Bester said:
“Unfortunately, we’re not immune to the impact of recent events, with the historically low base rate affecting the income of all banks and a period of prolonged economic uncertainty ahead, which means it’s important we reduce costs and have the right-sized operating model in place for the future.”
He added that more customers are choosing to bank online, and making fewer transactions in branches:
“We are responding to the continuing shift of more and more customers choosing to bank online, with lower levels of transactions in branches, a trend which has been increasing for some time, across the banking sector and more broadly.”
Union is “deeply disappointed”
Bank executives have promised to redeploy staff where possible and to consult with them and the unions.
Rob MacGregor at Unite said that the union is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision to cut staff and close branches.
“Job losses are always unwelcome. However, given the repeated restructuring exercises that this workforce has been through over the past 10 years, the news today will be particularly painful,” he said.
He pledged that Unite will continue to press the bank to put strategies in place that will secure as many jobs as possible and avoid compulsory redundancies.
Alternative banking options for customers
The 18 branches being closed will shut by the end of the year. Co-op bank said it had looked carefully at customer numbers using the branches before picking the 18 for closure.
The bank said it was writing to affected customers to provide information about the alternative options available to them, including Post Office counter services, telephone, online and mobile banking.
Across the UK, more than 187,000 people in a wide range of industries face redundancy, or have already been laid off, in recent months as the pandemic puts a growing dent in the national economy.