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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 October 2008

Sack the bankers not the workers

RMT protests against privatisation on the London underground , photo Paul Mattsson

RMT protests against privatisation on the London underground, photo Paul Mattsson

The proposed takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB will result in anything from 20,000 to 40,000 jobs being cut. As workers know at Cheltenham & Gloucester (C&G), the mortgage arm of Lloyds, we will not escape the chop.

A Cheltenham and Gloucester bank worker

Where I work at the C&G headquarters in Gloucester, up to 1,000 jobs are in danger as Lloyds looks for cost savings following the takeover. Workers here are fearful for the future.

Working for C&G has always been stressful, even when it was a building society. Then it prided itself on having the lowest costs, which meant insufficient staffing, low pay, legacy IT systems and poor service. Once Lloyds acquired C&G in 1995, it steamrollered further cost savings, which included branch closures, outsourcing head office functions to India, and a draconian performance management system.

The credit crunch has seen mortgage sales collapse. But not all C&G departments are quiet. The repossessions unit is doing brisk business. A year ago, 15 new cases per week were going into repossession; this figure has now climbed to 65 - a 335% increase and the economy is not officially in recession yet!

We are also seeing up to three cases per week, where the borrower is simply handing in their property keys and walking away. But this is no real escape from their problems as their debt will follow them for years as they are ruthlessly pursued for repayment.

Some of these repossessions will be buy-to-let cases, for which there is little sympathy.

Most cases, however, are ordinary working people going through the devastating experience of losing their home and being financially wiped out. And for some the experience will be too much. Heartrending cries can be heard on the C&G phones as defaulting borrowers plead for their homes.

The stress and anxiety caused by being in arrears and then repossession will cause many to suffer mental illness, relationship breakdown and even suicide. Sadly, it is not unknown for a branch manager to enter a home on repossession day and discover a hanging corpse.

The banking sector is now paying for its 'greed is good' strategy of maximising share-holder value over all other considerations. After years of mis-selling, over-charging and reckless lending, their house has unsurprisingly come crashing down.

And now their political servants in the form of New Labour are to bail them out with our taxes, while not yet lifting a finger to help those borrowers facing repossession.

This inequality must be ended once and for all by taking the banks into public ownership under the democratic control of working people. Now that's a repossession we would favour.

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In The Socialist 15 October 2008:

Sack the bankers not the workers

"Give us what the bankers got"

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