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FEATURE

New wave of layoffs in Spanish banking sector

In Spain where bank tellers were once legion, the sector is again reeling from thousands more job cuts as a 10-year trend gathers pace due to the ongoing pandemic.

Spanish banking layoffs
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Two more big banks announced thousands of layoffs last week with 8,300 jobs to be axed at CaixaBank, or one in five of its staff, and 3,800 at its smaller rival BBVA, accounting for 16 percent of the workforce.

The announcements drew an angry response from Spain’s big unions, the UGT and the Workers’ Union (CCOO), who denounced the cuts as “brutal” and “scandalous”.

Late last year, Banco Santander, Spain’s largest bank, said it would cut 3,500 jobs while Banco Sabadell moved to lay off 1,800 staff.

All of them have made the same argument: that in a context of low-interest rates which is expected to continue, they have to cut costs by reducing the number of branches rendered unnecessary by the growth of online banking.

Online transactions at BBVA have grown by 87 percent over the past two years, while branch-based operations have fallen by 48 percent, the bank said on Thursday.

This bloodletting is not new in Spain: between 2008 and 2019, the sector shed around 100,000 staff – or nearly 40 percent of its employees – after narrowly escaping collapse during a financial crisis when banks only survived thanks to a massive public bailout.

Consolidation

As a wave of consolidation took hold, Spain’s huge network of smaller local banks, which fuelled a property bubble two decades ago by lending willy-nilly, were absorbed by bigger rivals who began slashing staff.

In the past decade, the number of bank branches were cut in half, a report by the Moody’s ratings agency found. “Over the past decade, the Spanish banking system has undergone one of the most profound consolidation processes in Europe,” it said.

Between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent, and 37 percent of its staff laid off compared with 19 percent in Europe.

“In Spain, the two things we have a lot of are bars and bank branches… but it’s a model that is no longer profitable,” remarked Ricardo Zion, a banking expert at the EAE Business School.

With the explosion of online banking, “only older people go to branches, not the younger generation,” he said.

More layoffs at Spanish banks. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

According to World Bank figures cited in the report, Spain had 105 bank branches per 100,000 residents in 2008, three times the European average. By 2019, that figure had dropped to 46, still double the European average.

“The employment restructuring process is not yet over,” nor is the consolidation, predicted Robert Tornabell, a banking specialist at the Esade business school.

To remain profitable, “banks must get bigger… and close branches that need a lot of staff but don’t justify the cost,” particularly in rural areas, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has only aggravated the problem because in a sluggish economy, banks make less money and look elsewhere for profitability, Zion said.

In the case of CaixaBank, a merger with smaller rival Bankia that was finalised last month would entail the closure of many branches, some side-by-side on the same street, Tornabell said.

For staff, this new wave of layoffs was likely to be more traumatic than those in the past that largely involved people close to retirement. CaixaBank has warned that half of its 8,300 cuts would involve people under 50.

“It won’t be easy for these people to get back into the job market,” Zion warned.

Their fate has caused some concern within Spain’s Socialist-led government. “These are highly-educated people, meaning they are a human resource that needs to be protected as much as possible,” said Economy Minister Nadia Calvino.

“At the same time, I have expressed my concern about the high salaries and bonuses of senior managers within financial institutions” that are slashing jobs, she said.

READ ALSO: Spain’s BBVA bank poised to axe 3,800 jobs and close 530 branches 

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FEATURE

How can I change my Covid vaccine appointment in different regions in Spain?

What happens if you can’t make it to your Covid-19 vaccination appointment and need to change it to another day? Here's what you need to know about the process for the different regions across Spain.

How can I change my Covid vaccine appointment in different regions in Spain?
Health workers vaccinate people against Covid-19 at the Donostia Arena former bullring in San Sebastian. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

In most regions, when you first register for your vaccine, you are able to confirm or reject the vaccine appointment you are given, depending on your availability. In other regions, there are online links you can follow or telephone numbers to call in order to change your appointment.

If you can’t attend for whatever reason, it’s important that you let your local health authorities know, so that the vaccine dose is not wasted and can go to someone else.

Madrid

When registering for your appointment, you will receive an SMS with the day and time of your appointment. At that time, you can confirm your attendance or not. If you cannot make this appointment and do not confirm, you will receive a call from the number 915 026 058 to offer you a new one.

Valencia

If you can’t attend your vaccine time you must call your local health centre to tell them. They will then cancel your appointment and give it to the next person on the list. When all the people in your age group who kept their original appointments have been vaccinated, your health centre will call you again to arrange a new appointment.

Andalusia

In order to change your appointment, you must call the telephone number 955 545 060, when your age group is called up. Please find more information below or click on the link here

Andalusia vaccine infographic. Credit: https://www.andavac.es/

Catalonia

In Catalonia, simply click on the following link and click the button that says ‘demana o modificar cita‘ to register for your vaccine or change it. 

Balearic Islands

As soon as you have registered for your vaccination appointment, you will receive an e-mail from BITCITA with your individual link to cancel or change your appointment. You can also do this via the QR code that you will have received. For more information about the vaccination process click here

Canary Islands

If you need to change your appointment for any reason you can call 012 to do so when your group has been called up.

Murcia

From June 4th, Murcia opened up vaccine appointments for those aged 40 to 59 in 20 of its municipalities. You can register via the ‘MurciaSalud‘ portal or your Cita Previa SMS. The system will give you the first appointment available, but if you can’t attend this you can click ‘cambiar cita’ in order to be able to choose a different day and time.

Galicia

Those in Galicia who have any questions about their appointments should call the numbers associated with the health authorities in their province. You can find a list here of all the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for each province.

Basque Country

The Basque Country health authorities Osakidetza will send you an SMS when vaccination for your age group is open. They will send you a link where you can register either online or via a mobile app. Once you have registered your details, you will be given a choice of different days and times. Simply select the one you can attend. If at a later date, you can’t make this day, you need to call your local health centre to let them know. More information can be found here.

Castilla-La Mancha 

You will receive a call or a text message to register for your appointment. At the time you can say if you’re able to make the date they give you or not. If you need to change at a later date, the health authorities in Castilla-La Mancha haven’t detailed exactly what you should do however, the number for getting more information about your Covid vaccine is 925 248 367. For more information on the vaccination process in Castilla-La Mancha click here

Castilla y León

On the official health website for Castilla y León, they simply say that if you cannot attend your appointment then do not call them and that you will be contacted by them. More information about vaccination in Castilla y León can be found here.

Navarra

You will receive a call or a text message when it’s your turn to be vaccinated and can accept the vaccination date and time. You can also let them know if you’re unable to attend this date and they will tell you what to do. If you discover at a later date that you’re unable to attend, you can e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] for any questions you have. 

Extremadura 

If you have a justified reason for not attending your appointment and you let your local health centre know, they will call you a second time around to rearrange the time. 

Details on how to change your appointment in Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and Aragon haven’t yet been made available, but we will update you when they are. 

READ ALSO: Region by region: How to get a Covid-19 vaccination certificate in Spain

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