Royal Bank Of Scotland Will Lay Off 1,400 People Over Next 2 Years In Restructuring Of UK Head Offices

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A sign is seen outside a Royal Bank of Scotland building in central London.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) announced Thursday it will cut 1,400 jobs over the next two years as the bank continues to reduce its operations in efforts to boost its profitability.

"This is clearly difficult news for our staff and we will do everything we can to support them," said Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS's U.K. retail business in a statement. McEwan said that redeploying staff across its retail head offices in London and Edinburgh would help RBS avoid redundancies and no customer-facing roles would be cut.

The Edinburgh-based bank is majority nationalized, 81 percent owned by British taxpayers after receiving a £45 billion ($68.67 billion) taxpayer bailout in 2008. RBS announced in May that it could return to privatization by 2014 after reporting a £393 million net profit during the first quarter of 2013, when compared with its £1.5 billion loss in the same period a year earlier.

Unite, Britain's biggest union, delivered harsh criticism in response to RBS' layoff announcement and also criticized HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA), Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) and Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY), all of which have announced plans to slash a combined 6,900 jobs.

"This is brutal and irresponsible behavior from RBS, which is almost entirely owned by the taxpayer," said Unite National Officer Dominic Hook. "The industry almost caused the economy to implode in 2008 and now it is contributing to a jobs crisis."

HSBC announced Wednesday that it would slash 14,000 jobs from its operations around the world. By the time Lloyds' latest cuts of 850 staff happens at the end of this year, it will have cut a total of 40,000 jobs since its £20 billion bailout.

RBS' chief executive, Stephen Hester, has cut more than 30,000 jobs since the financial crisis in his aim to shed assets, focus on profitable operations and curtail investment banking.

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