The finance sector was hit by another jobs hammer blow yesterday with news that Lloyds is to axe 2,100 posts.

Staff were told cuts would affect the firm’s commercial and group operations, hitting offices across the country.

The Unite union said it was “astonished” at the new job losses, saying “real questions” had to be asked about how far the bank could be allowed to go in its “systematic” slashing of staff.

Rob MacGregor, Unite’s national officer, said: “This loss of over 2,000 jobs marks the largest single job loss announcement since the formation of Lloyds Banking Group in January. Morale is now truly low as employees across Lloyds are in a permanent state of anxiety as they see their employer announce hundreds of job losses every week. This Labour Government cannot afford to turn the other way as bank workers across the country are losing their jobs. This horrendous news brings the total of job losses since January in LBG to over 7,000. The thousands of staff in the commercial and group operations areas hit by this announcement will be seeking a commitment from the bank that there will be no compulsory redundancies.”

Lloyds said the changes followed “careful and detailed reviews” of group operations and wholesale divisions, which will bring together a number of functions across Lloyds TSB and HBOS areas.

Operational functions including payment and business services and banking are combining while the wholesale division is bringing together its Lloyds TSB and Bank of Scotland businesses in England and Wales. Up to 2,100 jobs will be affected over the next three years, although Lloyds said 350 new roles would be created in the wholesale division.

The bank expected 700 job cuts to be achieved through natural attrition and the release of contract and agency staff. It would not be offshoring any permanent operational roles.

Mark Fisher, director, group operations, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “By bringing the businesses together we will be better placed for the future. Regrettably, however, some of our colleagues will be affected by our plans. We understand that this difficult news will be unsettling and we will be working closely with those colleagues affected.”

Lloyds said compulsory redundancies would be a “last resort”. About 700 jobs will be lost in group operations across areas including Scotland, the Midlands and West Yorkshire. There will be 170 fewer “relationship manager” roles while commercial service centres will close this year in Barnstaple, Exeter, Lincoln, Plymouth and Yeovil.

Staff were also told that a further 34 commercial service centres were under review, with completion of this process due by the end of 2011. Telephony units will close in Chester and Speke, affecting 84 jobs. Among the jobs created will be 90 in Edinburgh and Birmingham.