KBC Bank Ireland accused of showing ‘complete contempt’ for staff

Lender strongly refutes accusation, claims it has offered staff generous redundancy terms

KBC Bank Ireland “respects our employees’ individual right to join a trade union, however we have always operated a model of direct engagement with employees,” it said in a statement.

KBC Bank Ireland (KBCI) has been accused of showing "complete contempt" for staff and industrial relations processes in Ireland following its refusal to attend a Labour Court hearing to discuss matters relating to its departure from the Irish market.

The Financial Services Union (FSU), which represents a significant portion of KBC's 1,300 Irish-based staff, has been seeking clarification on a number of issues relating to redundancy terms, work transfer rights and pension schemes but claims it is being stonewalled by the bank.

The bank, however, has strongly refuted the allegation, claiming it was negotiating with staff through a range of “internal mechanisms” and had agreed to the most favourable redundancy terms for staff seen in the Irish banking sector last year.

“KBCI respects our employees’ individual right to join a trade union, however we have always operated a model of direct engagement with employees,” it said in a statement.


“The matters referred to the Labour Court have been under discussion through that direct engagement model,” it said.

“This engagement process has consistently led to positive outcomes for our employees, including reaching agreement last year on the most generous redundancy terms in retail banking in Ireland,” the bank said.

The Belgian-owned lender announced in April last year that it planned to exit the Irish market. It is currently in talks to sell its €9 billion of performing loans to Bank of Ireland and recently sold most of its non-performing mortgages to US private equity firm CarVal.

Payments and pensions

Earlier this month it declined to attend a hearing of the Labour Court relating to payments and pensions of staff here, although it said it had written to the court.

In its recommendation, the Labour Court said it was “regrettable that workers in membership of the trade union are not facilitated to engage as they desire with their employer through their union at a time when fundamental issues arise in their employment”.

The FSU said the bank’s actions showed “a complete contempt for the industrial relations mechanisms of the State and a disregard for the views of union members in the bank.

"The bank of you, as KBC refers to itself, is not a bank that values staff engagement or a bank that adheres to normal industrial relations practices," Gareth Murphy, the FSU's head of industrial relations and campaigns, said.

Mr Murphy said KBC recognises and negotiates with unions in other jurisdictions but treats its staff in Ireland “as second-class employees”.

“All other main retail banks in Ireland take a different view and negotiate with their staff’s union representatives,” he said.

The fact that KBC are allowed to ignore the Labour Court shows the need to urgently modernise our industrial relations legislation and why workers want real reform, Mr Murphy added.

Mr Murphy said the FSU has written again to KBC on these matters and remains available to meet over the coming days.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times