FILE PHOTO: A BNP Paribas logo is seen outside a bank office in Paris, France, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Regis DuvignauMore
By Inti Landauro
PARIS (Reuters) - BNP Paribas reached an agreement with unions over a plan to cut as many as 2,500 jobs at its Belgian retail banking unit by 2021 as part of an effort to bring down costs.
The bank expects most of the departures at BNP Paribas Fortis to come through attrition and it will offer an early retirement to 800 workers aged 58 and over, said spokesman Valery Halloy. The bank employs 13,000 people in Belgium.
"There will be no unvoluntary layoffs for the next three years," he said. As part of the agreement, the remaining workers accepted to work an additional hour per week.
In Belgium as elsewhere, retail banks are closing down branches as the growth of electronic banking means that fewer people visit local branches.
Cost-cutting has become an even more pressing issue for traditional retail banks with the arrival of new online banks who offer real-time and dirt-cheap services.
BNP Paribas Fortis dominates the local market with one of the densest branch networks in Belgium and needs to align its costs to its main competitors, KBC Groep and the local unit of ING, Halloy said.
Fortis has reduced the number of its branches to 678 from 938 between 2012 and 2018, according to BNP Paribas documents.
The headcount cut will involve jobs at all levels, not only in branches, he added.
The negotiations for this agreement were more tense than for previous similar deals in the past as the bank intends to cut its payroll by a wider margin, SETCA union general secretary Jean-Michel Cappoen said.
"The bank has cut around 400 jobs per year with the previous plans, this time it was a lot more," Cappoen said.
The bank's goal is to eventually reduce its staff to 10,000, he said.
Spokesman Halloy declined to confirm the figure.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Geert De Clercq)
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