Report: Bank of America to lay off Fleet workers

Wednesday, August 18th 2004, 10:45 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Bank of America Corp. planned to lay off hundreds of tellers and other branch employees at Fleet banks on Wednesday, a result of its merger with Boston-based FleetBoston Financial Corp., according to a published report.

The employees will be asked to leave the buildings immediately, the Boston Globe reported, based on documents it obtained and interviews with Fleet branch managers.

A Bank of America spokeswoman declined Wednesday to confirm whether any layoffs would be happening immediately, sticking with the bank's earlier statements about the merger's impact on staffing across the combined company.

``We have said from the very beginning that there would be 12,500 cuts as a result of the merger,'' spokeswoman Eloise Hale said. ``We continue to say that.''

Fleet workers said the North Carolina bank, which acquired FleetBoston in the spring, is converting Fleet's 1,500 branches to its own model, which uses fewer full-time staff members per branch, the Globe said.

The layoffs will affect nearly every community in which Fleet does business, the Globe reported. One branch manager who asked not to be named said it's expected that one worker per branch _ or about 1,500 total _ would be laid off.

Hale declined to comment on that number when reached Wednesday by The Associated Press.

She said Bank of America was adjusting staffing at Fleet branches as a result of the merger, with some losing jobs and others gaining.

Hale offered no specific numbers or any timeline on job cuts but said the moves would ultimately bring more employees into direct contact with customers and boost the number of tellers. She said the plan is not expected to lead to the closure of Fleet branches.

The company also plans to transfer some employees, and to reduce the hours of others, the Globe said.

Linnea Walsh, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Departments of Labor and Workforce Development, told the AP Wednesday that the state had received no notice of impending layoffs from Bank of America. Such notification could be required under federal law, depending on the timeline and the number of job cuts. Among other things, the law requires that an employer provide notice of a shutdown of a specific job site resulting in the loss of 50 or more jobs in a 30-day period.

Bank of America, after completing its $48 billion acquisition of Fleet, temporarily maintained the Fleet name in the Northeast as it began integrating the two companies.

This week, it began renaming Fleet branches in upstate New York before moving on to other parts of the Fleet territory over the next few months.

The Globe said it obtained internal ``talking points'' of what managers are supposed to say to laid-off workers Wednesday, and it includes instructions to turn over bank property and leave.

Hale denied that laid off workers would be asked to immediately leave.

Fleet had about 47,000 employees before the merger.

In a July 14 conference call with analysts following the merger, chief financial officer Marc Oken said Bank of America expects cost savings from the merger to total as much as $750 million by the end of 2004.