Since the beginning of the year, Nordea has launched co-operation negotiations leading to redundancies in centralised units every month in order to reduce its number of staff. Nordea’s objective in all of these negotiations is to achieve cost savings by moving work to countries with lower labour costs or by reorganising units. Nine of the negotiation procedures that started in January were brought to an end in March, resulting in 38 people losing their jobs. At the same time, two new staff reduction undertakings where started, this time with the aim of reducing 18 jobs among a group of 89 people. April’s proposals continued along the same lines with two new negotiation proposals aimed at reducing 23 jobs in a target group of 80 people. In addition, one negotiation procedure ended with the result of reducing the jobs of three people instead of the proposed six. The outcome of the negotiations completed at Nordea Finance will result in 8 employees being made redundant. Additionally, 16 fixed-term employment relationships will come to an end.
In short, there have been 17 negotiation proposals within the Group since the beginning of the year, threatening a total of 136 jobs. Of these, 11 negotiations have been completed, resulting in 40 people losing their jobs in the bank and 8 in Nordea Finance. In addition, several fixed-term employment relationships will end. There are currently five negotiations under way at the bank, threatening the end of 44 people’s jobs. Nousu Trade Union will not accept the moving of jobs from Finland to countries with lower labour costs and the consequent dismissal of Finnish employees. The reduction of jobs also cannot be founded on assumptions about the effects of changes. In a large company like Nordea, it must be possible to place skilful employees in new tasks.
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been unpredictable in the workplace. Companies have not been able to prepare themselves very well for societal changes like this and have consequently had to quickly revise their modes of operation and working conditions to meet the requirements of the new situation. At all levels of negotiation including top management, Nousu has challenged the reasons for the decisions made to reduce staff in these changed circumstances. When the working conditions are different to those in place when the plans were made, the situation should be reassessed along with the effects of the new working environment on the decisions. At the very least, the implementation schedule for the projects should be reassessed, if not the entire reason for their implementation. In some branches, this has been done and reassessments of projects already launched have been begun. In one case, the management’s decision after the co-operation negotiations was not to implement the dismissal of six persons. The implementation of some projects has also been put back. We consider this a highly responsible way to act and, for both risk management and the staff, a fundamentally better way to operate.
Despite the fact that there are several co-operation negotiations constantly under way within the Group, the amount of work to be done is so large that overtime work is offered at many units to ensure it gets done. Sometimes overtime work is even offered in the same unit where co-operation negotiations have been begun or reduction decisions have already been made. There is something fundamentally wrong with an equation where staff is being reduced when the amount of work is so large that it is difficult or impossible to complete it within normal working hours. In some departments, people are even competing for overtime work! The reason they do is evident: to increase their modest income. If anything, overtime work is offered in some places as a rule rather than as the exception it should be. The daily workload is tough. Often quick changes in working conditions and ways of working cause extra pressure. We have observed the staff being flexible and stretching themselves according to the situation at hand while striving to do their best to serve customers in every unit. We have shared our worries about employees’ well-being with the management. Staff is the vital resource that makes customer service possible, even in a crisis.
Due to the coronavirus, many people have had to start working remotely from home. Many have found this a welcome opportunity that makes it easier to organise, for example, their private life. For those facing the threat of redundancy, however, this may mean that redundancy consultations take place via remote access. Despite the tight restrictions on movement and meetings, we have been able to agree in Finland that if a person wants these consultations to take place physically, this must be made possible. We have been involved in a Nordic team that charted the best practices for consultations via remote access during the exceptional situation posed by the coronavirus. This work paid special attention to ensuring sufficient support for people under the threat of redundancy. Supervisors seldom know the exact nature of an employee’s private life. That is why it is particularly important to make sure that no one is left to cope alone. Everyone has the chance to have a support person along to help them in consultations relating to redundancy. No one should tackle negotiations that will have a fundamental effect on their future alone; instead, we recommend members always take along a shop steward. The shop steward will also provide information and guidance during the preparations for the consultation and will support you with your personal decision-making. Nousu’s network of shop stewards is available to members facing changes in their working life, however difficult the situation.