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SocGen's French job cuts are not popular: "This way of doing things is unacceptable"

SocGen releases its fourth quarter results for 2023 on Thursday this week. When it does, they will presumably not be the best: as part of the €1.7bn of cost-cuts and 3,500 job cuts announced by the bank last September, SocGen said today that it plans to remove precisely 947 people in Paris, soon.

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People at SocGen are not happy. Writing on his blog today, Philippe Fournil, SocGen's delegate to the the Confederation Generale du Travail Union described the communication surrounding the cuts as "unacceptable." 

It's not just the fact that the 947 people are being dispatched in the next three months, thereby ruining everyone's summer holiday, it's the communication surrounding the cuts, says Fournil. "After 9 months of silence, general management only gave us 1 hour 40 minutes to talk on Friday," he claims. "Barely enough time to discover the extent of the damage announced and to start asking questions."

To make matters worse, Fournil notes that these may not be the last of the cuts this year: "Several thousand additional employees could be sacrificed in 2024!"

The villain of the piece is, naturally, Slawomir Krupa, SocGen's CEO since May 2023. Krupa has been with the bank for a while, but his career has been spent in the investment bank, where sensibilities like summer holidays are less significant. Krupa has already made cuts in equity derivatives and structured products and offshored technology jobs. His latest cuts are all about taking out management layers in the style of Citi and further boosting the efficiency of IT systems. 

As ever with SocGen, it's not that bad. For all the complaints of unacceptability from Fournil, the French bank has already made it clear that none of the cuts will be forced redundancies. Instead, SocGen said today that it will make "internal transfers," offer "voluntary departures" or extend "end-of-year support." Details are being threshed out with the union, but in the past SocGen has been pleasant and generous: in previous voluntary redundancy programs in 2013, 2015 and 2016, SocGen offered its top staff packages of up to €340k to leave of their own accords.

Fournil says negotiations concerning the exit arrangements are starting next Monday. Today, another series of town halls is scheduled. In the meantime, there are a few things that Fourneil says SocGen's French employees would like to clarify: Will they have to work harder after the job cuts? Why haven't salaries increased in line with inflation? Will bonuses be meagre?

Employees at rival French banks don't seem very sympathetic. "This kind of thing is very unusual in France," says one. "It highlights the scale of the underperformance of their business." 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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