Financial Services Union mounts campaign to ‘save’ Ulster Bank

Wind-down of the business being considered as part of a strategic review

‘Ulster Bank has a long association with its customers and communities across Ireland and plays a key role in personal, business, and digital banking,’ said FSU general secretary John O’Connell. Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

‘Ulster Bank has a long association with its customers and communities across Ireland and plays a key role in personal, business, and digital banking,’ said FSU general secretary John O’Connell. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

The Financial Services Union (FSU) said on Thursday that it has written to directors of Ulster Bank’s UK parent NatWest as part of a campaign to “save” the Irish lender, as a wind-down of the business is being actively considered as part of a strategic review.

The union said it has secured signatories from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Irish Farmers’ Association, Mandate Trade Union, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Unite the Union and opposition political parties as it builds a “broad coalition” seeking to convince NatWest to keep Ulster Bank’s doors open.

“Ulster Bank has a long association with its customers and communities across Ireland and plays a key role in personal, business, and digital banking. It provides local jobs for 3,000 people in towns and cities throughout the island of Ireland, some 2,400 of which are in the Republic of Ireland, through its 88-strong branch network,” said FSU general secretary John O’Connell.

“It supports our farming sector and small and medium enterprises in their growth and as such plays a vital role in our economy. In some communities, it is, to its credit, the last bank in town. A decision to close the bank would have a devastating impact, economically, socially, and individually on customers, communities, and staff.”

Mr O’Connell added: “We are calling on NatWest to meet with the FSU and to engage with all those affected ahead of making any such monumental decision.”

The Irish Times reported on September 18th that NatWest, formerly Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), was actively considering a wind-down of Ulster Bank in the Republic as Covid-19 has added to the problems of the lender, which has struggling for years with high costs and low profitability.

NatWest has also been weighing the merits of merging the business with another lender, though the latter is said to be a less likely outcome.

A spokeswoman for NatWest said at the time that that the group is looking at the “impact of Covid-19 and the challenges to the economy and we are reviewing our strategy appropriately and responsibly in light of these events”.

“In the event of any changes being made to our strategy, these would be undertaken with full consideration of any impact on customers, colleagues and shareholders in the first instance. Our priority now is to continue to remain focused on supporting our customers and colleagues in these difficult times,” she added.