Almost 500 remain. They are the last Post Office officials on leave of absence who continue to work for a bank. They have been serving customers in bank branches for more than 30 years. Most were unaware that they were still public employees. These workers believed that they had lost their status as Post Office officials when they joined Argentaria, the entity born from the old Postal Box. In October 1999, Argentaria merged with Banco Bilbao Vizcaya and BBVA was born. By then these workers, perfectly integrated into the bank’s structure, had forgotten that they started out as civil servants. During all this time they have worked and contributed as employees in banking, like the thousands who bustle in the offices of the second Spanish entity, but their origin made them different from the rest. And they didn’t know it.
Until now they had never worried about their employment situation because they were convinced, like so many others, that BBVA would never do an ERE. But this year the first major collective layoff in the bank’s history has come. “As long as each one was accepting early retirement, there were no problems with the employment situation in the past because the bank covered a percentage of the salary during the years agreed when you left and then you took advantage of the official retirement. But now there are no early retirements but layoffs and that means that we are going to unemployment for two years because it is part of the agreement to terminate the contract, ”explains Juan Manuel Cañas, from Jaén, one of those affected, who started as an employee of Caja Postal.
When BBVA launched an ERE last June and they decided to take advantage of the process voluntarily, like almost 5,000 other employees of the blue entity, they discovered that their case was different from the rest. They consulted their situation and the State Public Employment Service (SEPE) reminded them that they were still civil servants on voluntary leave. The public labor body warned them that article 29.3a of the Regulation of Administrative Situations of Civil Servants of the General State Administration should apply to them. The consequence: they did not have the right to unemployment because they could rejoin the Administration whenever they wanted.
Lose two years of unemployment
If they resigned from the public service, they would not receive the two years of unemployment benefit that the rest of their colleagues will receive. Including those from Banco Exterior, Banco Hipotecario or Banco de Crédito Local, with whom they shared a destination in Argentaria, because these were always considered as work personnel.
Employees from Caja Postal protested this situation and, after a new union negotiation, BBVA has agreed that it will pay them the 24 months of unemployment to which they believed they were entitled. The bank’s compensation includes an amount, (depending on the age group) of up to 75%, discounting what corresponds for dismissal. But what is not yet clear is whether the bank will include him in the ERE or not because almost one in two who have signed up (the deadline was July 12) will be left out of the dismissal agreement.
One of the Caja Postal veterans, JF, who requests anonymity because he wants to avoid conflicts with the bank, explains the situation. “Imagine how we stayed when we consulted the SEPE and they denied us the right to unemployment. We could not believe it, after having contributed three decades to Social Security and having paid the right to unemployment like the rest of the workforce. The response of the SEPE was that we return to the Administration because we were on leave of absence from the public function, ”he explains.
Where has the money gone?
“At first we felt helpless for the bank to which we have dedicated our entire professional career and that we were in a kind of limbo in which neither the entity nor the Administration wanted to know anything about us.” And JF doesn’t hide his outrage. “Where has all the money quoted for unemployment gone for so many years by the thousands of Caja Postal workers who joined Argentaria and later BBVA?”
Among the colleagues of Caja Postal there are no known cases of workers who want to return to the Administration. The situation is uncertain because they do not know exactly which area they would return to. The SEPE does not guarantee that it will go to the Post Office. “I am 60 years old,” says JF, “it is not the age to enter a new organization, which will have its own computer systems and work routine. It has already been difficult for me to adapt to the digitization of the bank … ”.
This veteran looks back wistfully. JF remembers how, while in the military, at the age of 22, he decided to study the postman exams; He approved them in 1983 and spent six years in Miranda de Ebro (Burgos), “where I still have friends,” he says with pride. “I liked the work, I enjoyed it, but I saw how my colleagues were getting older and I decided to change course. I passed other oppositions and became an employee in the Postal Box, this time in Torrevieja ”.
He was there from 1989 to 1993, when he got a place in Medina del Campo, thanks to the fact that the entity had an expansion plan. At that time, in 1991, he recalls, the socialist government of Felipe González created the Spanish Banking Corporation and in 1993 began its privatization in the Stock Market. Under the leadership of Francisco Luzón, the financial entities of the State that were dispersed were agglutinated, creating a banking player of weight, although of low profitability.
Nobody wanted to return to the Administration
Caja Postal became a public limited company and, since 1991, its employees had to choose whether to remain as government officials or take a voluntary leave of absence and join the private entity, although 100% of the shares were owned by the State.
Another JF colleague, Juan Manuel Cañas, from Jaén, lived a similar professional career and remembers that moment: “Practically all of us decided to move to Caja Postal. We liked the work and it was an attractive work project ”. From that moment, they were considered employees of a financial institution, which in October 1999, merged with BBV, and entered another dimension, with an absolutely private criterion.
Cañas is 58 years old, “and I turn 59 in December,” he points out. His stories are similar, although he did not start as a postman, but as a postal officer for the Caja Postal, in 1984. A year later he opposed and became an administrative assistant. He passed through various squares, including Madrid and later Linares. Remember that, “the Postal Box, I don’t know why, it depended on the Ministry of Finance.”
The two former employees of Caja Postal view with nostalgia the closure of the banking offices, especially in the towns, where their entity has always been. His reflection is that, 30 years later, it has been proven that the function of the Postal Box and the Post Office is still necessary. “They have had to reinvent what already worked decades ago. Banks are leaving the towns they occupied in the past, when it was interesting to capture liabilities, and only the Post Office remains as the financial center for emptied Spain ”, points out Juan Manuel Cañas.
Correos has signed an agreement with Banco Santander to offer the entry and withdrawal of cash in 4,652 service points, including 2,370 offices. 109 ATMs have even been installed, “some of them in towns without a bank branch,” reports Correos. “It goes back to the function we had in 1990,” says Cañas.