Spanish union says Santander plans to lay off 1,200 workers

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's biggest bank Santander SAN.MC plans to lay off 1,200 staff as part of a country-wide restructuring plan, the Comisiones Obreras union said on Wednesday after talks with the lender.

Early retirements will make up half of the job cuts while others would be offered incentives to leave, Spain’s largest union said in a statement. It called on the bank to substantially reduce the number of layoffs.

Santander declined to comment. The lender has around 24,000 staff in Spain.

The bank plans to close around 450 small domestic branches as part of the overhaul which comes in response to rising regulatory costs and a push into digital services.

Spanish banks have been trimming costs, including through branch closures, since a 2012 financial crisis which ate into earnings and pushed some into state bailouts.

Their profits have since recovered, but Spain still has the highest number of branches per person of any country in the world, according to data from Citigroup and the World Bank.

Spain had 70 branches per 100,000 adults at the end of 2014, the data showed, compared with 25 in the UK and 32 in the United States.

Reporting by Paul Day and Robert Hetz; editing by Jason Neely