Finance workers sold short
The papers were full of speculation yesterday about the impact of the HBOS/Lloyds TSB merger on jobs – with some (usually anonymous) analysts claiming up to 40,000 could face redundancy. The true figure will hopefully be less than this, but whatever the finally tally its pretty sickening that HBOS/Lloyds TSB staff – most of whom are not financial masters of the universe – are having to pay the price for the accumulated greed and incompetence of the speculators here and on Wall Street.
The unions representing staff in the two companies have made it clear they’ll resist compulsory redundancies and will be seeking talks with Lloyds TSB about job security (see here and here). HBOS had a pretty unique relationship with Accord and UNITE because it was (as far as I know) the only FTSE 100 company to have a stated objective to increase union density (to at least 70%) amongst its workforce. Whether these arrangements will carry over into the new merged set-up will, I suppose, remain to be seen, but I am sure both unions will be working flat-out to try and make sure staff are treated with fairness and respect during what must be an incredibly worrying time for everyone involved.
One thing that has struck me about the events of the last few days is how the news has focused almost exclusively on the ‘big numbers’ – £50bn wiped off London shares, FTSE 100 down by more than 200 points, 26,000 Lehman staff losing their jobs etc etc – and virtually nothing on the real impact on all these figures on real people’s lives. The few times this has been mentioned the stories have been about high earning bankers having to take their kids out of fee paying schools or sell their second or third homes. While I wouldn’t want to diminish anyone’s loss, this pre-occupation with the impact of the current crisis on a relatively small group of people, is in danger of trivialising its impact on tens of thousands of people from call centre workers to office cleaners whose incomes are also under threat. It seems that even in the midst of a global crisis, a few columnists are pre-occupied with the lives of the (now not so) rich and infamous.