By PAUL HASTE
MILLIONAIRE Royal Bank of Scotland bosses put the jobs of thousands of low-paid finance workers on the line on Thursday in a last-ditch bid to avoid full-scale nationalisation.
Admitting the largest-ever corporate loss in history, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) chief executive Stephen Hester made it clear that as many as 20,000 workers would be made to pay with their jobs for management’s greedy irresponsibility.
But the colossal £24 billion loss, the result of executives racking up £7 billion in bad debt charges and writing off another £17 billion worth of bad business deals, has failed to shame RBS bosses into humility.
Mr Hester, who is handed an annual salary of £1.2 million, instead insisted on massive cuts to the RBS workforce, boasting that it was his intention to end the livelihoods of thousands of cashiers, tellers and admin workers – many of whom earn as little as £12,000 a year – in an effort to avoid a state takeover.
The astonishing demand came as the bank prepared to go cap-in-hand to the government for another multibillion-pound handout to try to placate City traders.
RBS has already soaked up £20 billion of taxpayers’ cash and is relying on the state to insure a staggering £325 billion of bad debts against default – all of which pushes the government’s 68 per cent shareholding to an unprecedented 75 per cent, with full nationalisation the only alternative if these latest plans fail.
Finance workers’ union Unite leader Derek Simpson tore into RBS bosses for their threat to make staff pay for executive mistakes.
“These historic and humiliating losses bring into sharp focus just how reckless the RBS former management team have behaved,” he stormed.
“You cannot have a state bail-out on the one hand while allowing the spectre of thousands of jobs losses to loom over staff on the other. It is time to take control and fully nationalise this bank,” Mr Simpson demanded.
He insisted that Unite would fight against any compulsory redundancies and called for the Chancellor to “intervene to protect the workers in call centres, branches and back offices who are the victims, not the culprits, of this mess.”
Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Grahame Smith added that many workers at the Edinburgh-based bank were “shocked at the shamelessness and sense of entitlement of those who brought about this crisis at RBS.”
“Ordinary workers are suffering growing anxiety and insecurity about their future job prospects, while the taxpayer is left exposed to toxic assets totalling billions of pounds,” Mr Smith added.
“It is worth remembering that, until very recently, the bosses’ vainglorious business strategy was lionised by politicians of every hue and held up as a model for private and public sectors alike.”
Left Economics Advisory Panel chairman Labour MP John McDonnell stressed that “state control is urgently needed.
“The Prime Minister needs to take control, end the fat-cat bonuses and nationalise the banks.
“His credibility is draining fast and swift action is needed if this administration is to survive,” Mr McDonnell declared.
Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths said: “Any redundancies at RBS should start at the top.
“There needs to be a clear-out of all senior management involved in the policies that have caused the bank to fail.”
And Mr Griffiths added that “the government needs to appoint, in consultation with the unions, a new board at RBS to ensure that future policies reflect the needs of homeowners and the workers at the bank.”