Commerzbank to quell fears of job losses, trade union to call strike 28 March

The planned merger between Germany’s two largest private banks spark fear of massive job losses: up to 30 000 jobs, 10 000 alone in Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital. [Markus Götz / shutterstock]

The management of Germany’s Commerzbank has a clear strategy about the planned merger with Deutsche Bank and is “working hard” in order to reach a decision as quickly as possible, CEO Martin Zielke said in an internal e-mail sent to the bank’s employees and seen by EURACTIV.

“We will keep the current uncertainty as short as possible and work hard to come to a quick conclusion,” Zielke wrote. Commerzbank is stepping into the negotiations with “confidence and clear ideas”. “We have a clear strategy,” he added.

The planned merger between Germany’s two largest private banks has sparked fear of massive job losses: up to 30 000 jobs could be lost, of which 10,000 in Frankfurt alone, Germany’s financial capital, according to trade union Verdi. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank employ together 140,000 people.

Fears are particularly widespread at Commerzbank as it is the smaller of the two financial institutions, and therefore has more to lose than Deutsche Bank in a merger scenario.

On 17 March, the two lenders confirmed they were in talks over a possible merger.

Deutsche Bank has struggled to generate sustainable profits since the 2008 financial crisis. Since the financial crisis, Berlin holds a 15% share in Commerzbank.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his state secretary Jörg Kukies, former head of Goldman Sachs Germany, had emphasized that the country needed strong players in the banking sector.

Commerzbank said in a statement that the two banks “have agreed today to start discussions with an open outcome on a potential merger.” Deutsche Bank said its management board had decided to “review strategic options” but stressed that there was no certainty of any transaction emerging.

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing and Commerzbank CEO Martin Zielke informed on 22 March their respective supervisory boards about the status of the current state of play of the negotiations between the two banks.

Trade union call for strikes

“Nobody can seriously assume one will only stand there and stare,” Verdi chairman Frank Bsirske said shortly after the merger was announced. Jan Duscheck, responsible for the banking industry at Verdi, said: “We reject a possible merger between the two banks because tens of thousands of jobs could be lost.”

German economic daily Handelsblatt reported on Friday (22 March) that employees of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are planning to jointly take action against the planned merger after their trade union representatives met on Thursday evening in Frankfurt. ‘Warnstreik’ are scheduled as of 28 March, with a strike every following day in a different city, the paper reported.

Verdi declined to comment on the report.

Scepticism from major shareholder  

The world’s largest asset management fund, Blackrock, sees the possible merger of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank with scepticism. Speaking at a conference in Frankfurt 22 March, Blackrock’s Vice-Chairman Philipp Hildebrand said one is not convinced of the idea. Blackrock is one of the largest shareholders of both institutions.

The goal should not be to create a large investment bank based on the US model, because that would “not work,” he added, stressing that he does not understand the reasoning behind the merger plan. “Which problem should be solved here?” he asked.

No interference from the EU Commission

In an interview published on 23 March in German daily Die Welt, European Commissioner Valdis Dombroski stressed that the planned merger is “a private sector decision” and that the EU commission does not interfere.

“Companies have to decide for themselves whether they want to get together and if it is advantageous or not for them. We only look at the consequences for the competition and whether we can approve it,” he said, adding that the Commission expects that no taxpayer money will be necessary for the merger.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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