The staff of Ulster Bank have been treated in a “totally unacceptable” way, a trade union representing staff across Irish banking and finance has said.
The Financial Services Union (FSU) said it is “deeply disappointed” by the confirmation on Friday morning that the bank is winding down its operations in the Republic.
The union called for the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, to “get all key stakeholders around the table to discuss and agree the response to this situation”.
General secretary of the FSU John O’Connell said: “This is very sad news for the staff and customers of the bank, as well as for the communities it has served for so many years.
“The timing of this announcement in the middle of a pandemic and the manner in which the staff have been treated throughout this process is totally unacceptable.
“We will be expressing these sentiments to Ulster Bank management when we meet with them this afternoon. The announcement today also raises many more questions than answers and we will be seeking further detail in our meeting today.”
Mr O’Connell said the union will encourage “constructive solutions so long as they provide the maximum protection for customers, staff and the branch structure.”
“Our position is clear: the maximum number of jobs must be protected, staff must have the option of transferring with the work, and all service agreements must be honoured and transferred. There must be no compulsory redundancies,” he said.
Ulster Bank workers, FSU's advice team is here to support you and your co-workers on this difficult day. We are available to answer your calls and emails until 5:30pm. Please don't hesitate to get in touch: Freephone 1800 819 191(ROI)/0800 358 0071(NI) or email firstname.lastname@example.org pic.twitter.com/gpU9JlSrDl
— Financial Services Union (@fsuireland) February 19, 2021
Minister Donohoe has stressed that the Government did not have any role in commercial decisions over the bank’s future.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Minister Donohoe said the wind-down announcement is “little surprise to some” but it is still a very difficult day.
“It does not diminish the impact it’s going to have on the many, many employees that Ulster Bank has in our country and doesn’t diminish the concern that their customers may have for the future,” he added.
“That is why reassurance regarding continuing to bank with Ulster Bank when they are here, an indication of a phased withdrawal… and the acknowledgement that they have given regarding engaging with strategic banking counterparties, in other words other retail banks, are, amidst a difficult day, important points that we will now be working on.”
Minister Donohoe also said there are “many bridges to cross” in the aftermath of the announcement.
He added that the consumer protections that customers have will travel with them, no matter who buys the bank's loans.
“There are a number of commercial possibilities which do offer the potential for existing retail banks here in Ireland to be strengthened,” he said.
“But it is now up to those banks to see are those commercial transactions possible and are they satisfied with what would it would mean for their shareholders, but also for their existing staff and for their existing customers.”