Caixabank staff protest against job cuts as bankers’ pay in spotlight

Hundreds of Caixabank employees protested in Valencia on Friday against the bank’s plans to cut staff numbers by nearly a fifth in Spain, just as shareholders were due to vote on bosses pay at the lender’s annual meeting.

TV footage released by the union CCOO on social media showed people, some wearing masks with faces of Caixabank executives, protesting outside Valencia’s Palacio de Congresos, where the bank’s shareholder meeting was taking place.

Some were shouting: “They triple it (their salaries) and take it away from us.”

A spokesman for the union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) said 500 people had turned up in Valencia to protest against the bank’s job cut plans.

There have been other protests in Spain against recent plans for 18,000 job cuts by five Spanish banks, which have coincided with government calls to rein in top bankers’ pay.

Caixabank, Spain’s biggest domestic lender by assets after buying rival Bankia, last month announced the plans to cut around 8,000 jobs, one of the biggest staff reductions in Spain’s history.

At Friday’s annual meeting, Caixabank will ask shareholders to approve a fixed salary of 1.65 million euros ($2.00 million), plus a bonus of up to 200,000 euros, for 2021 for Bankia’s former chairman Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri, who has taken over as executive chairman at Caixabank.

Before the merger, the fixed part of Goirigolzarri’s salary was capped at 500,000 euros, while the bonus or variable remuneration could rise to a maximum of 300,000 euros. This was a precondition for the 22.4 billion euros in state-aid Bankia received at the height of the financial crisis in 2012.

But now that Bankia has legally disappeared, the remuneration cap on Goirigolzarri has been removed.

Though the government and the Bank of Spain have no power to enforce cuts on fixed salaries of banks’ executives, the matter has become sensitive for Caixabank, where the state holds a 16% stake, down from around 60% in Bankia.

On Thursday, the Bank of Spain called on banks to be “extremely prudent” regarding bankers’ bonuses, while the Labour Ministry has called on Caixabank and BBVA, which also plans layoffs, to reduce staff cuts, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

On Friday, Goirigolzarri said in a speech to shareholders at the meeting that “short-term workforce adjustments” were needed to preserve the “maximum number of sustainable jobs for the future”.

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