RBS workers have had it tough in the last couple of years: not only does majority ownership by the taxpayer mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry now think they have the right to criticise them, but the walk to every unscheduled meeting must feel uncannily like being dragged to the gallows. And with the announcement the bank is set to cut another 2,600 jobs, the gloom around RBS towers is sure to be even deeper than usual. And they're not the only ones...
About 600 of these jobs are likely to go from the bank’s retail headquarters in Edinburgh and Glasgow, while the rest are set to be cut from its insurance business, which includes Churchill and Direct Line. RBS is under pressure to sell off the companies, along with 318 of its bank branches, by 2013, under stipulations set out by EU competition regulators - part of the deal whereby the Government is allowed to prop up the bank.
The cuts bring the number of job losses at RBS to more than 22,000 since the beginning of the recession. And just to add insult to taxpayer injury, more than 500 of the jobs due to be axed in Scotland are likely to be moved to India. However, the bank maintains that stringent cost-cutting is ‘vital’ if it wants to return to profit by next year – something that the occupant of Number Ten (whoever that may be) will be very keen on.
Either way, the politicians had better get their act together soon: there was a suggestion today that the uncertainty over who's going to run the economy is causing headaches for more than just Nick Clegg. The British Retail Consortium reckons it’s affecting shoppers too: retail sales were apparently down 2.3% in April, a year-on-year drop of 0.2% (and for once, retailers can't really blame the bad weather). That said, we can’t remember a time when politics has affected our weekly shop (although perhaps we’re not as sensitive as other shoppers). And the fact that Easter fell in March this year was always going to mean a drop in April.
Still, it was undeniably a tough month for the high street - not helped by a drop-off in tourism. EasyJet has just reported that the pesky volcanic ash cloud is likely to cost it between £50m and £75m – and with more flights expected to be cancelled from Spain and Portugal this week, tourism is going to be affected for a while yet. (Not that Spanish or Portugese tourists should be spending money in the UK anyway, given the parlous state of their own economies.)
So unhappy news all round. Let’s just hope the sun breaks through the gloom soon to give us something to smile about.
In today's bulletin:
Brown resignation sends pound plunging as investors fear power vacuum
Unite seeks BA negotiations - by announcing 20-day strike
RBS cuts 2,600 jobs - and high street suffers
Goldman to cull dozens of partners?
The Parent Project: The new rules of commuting