Trade union refers Bank of Ireland to WRC over job cut plan

Union calls for bank to ‘engage meaningfully’ over redundancy proposal

The Financial Services Union (FSU) has referred Bank of Ireland to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over its decision to pursue voluntary redundancies amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The union, which represents the majority of staff in the bank, has written to the WRC seeking urgent conciliation. It says Bank of Ireland has breached the terms of a change-management agreement in opening applications for redundancies.

“These proposals were made unilaterally, in a way which was not in keeping with normal industrial relations practice,” said FSU general secretary John O’Connell.

“We have long-standing agreements with Bank of Ireland, which were cast aside in this case.”

Mr O’Connell said the proposals would have “serious ramifications” for both staff and services offered by the bank.

“Bank staff, as essential workers, have ensured that branch services remain operating and services continue to customers during Covid-19. We need to see the light of day cast on the job cut proposals so they can be scrutinised. Any threat to services from job cuts will be robustly challenged by FSU.”

He said the union looked forward to “meaningful engagement” from the bank.

Bank of Ireland drew sharp criticism from the FSU earlier this month when it launched a voluntary redundancy scheme with a closing date of September 23rd.

Chief executive Francesca McDonagh said more than 1,400 jobs would be cut over the coming years, taking its workforce below 9,000. She did not set a limit on the number of staff who might leave the bank under the current proposal, which offers better terms than those given to staff who departed in recent years.

The union has called on the bank to pause the plans, describing the call on employees to make “a life-changing career decision” in the middle of a pandemic as “totally insensitive”.

Enhanced terms

"The 'voluntary' nature of the programme is completely undermined by a requirement of staff to make a decision in an unreasonable time frame, without all the facts, under the threat of enhanced terms being withdrawn," said FSU senior industrial relations officer Maeve Brehony.

In response, the bank said the enhanced exit package would suit some of its employees depending on their individual circumstances.

“We appreciate that this is an important decision for colleagues and we are providing a range of practical supports including tax, pension, education and career advice as well as a continued focus on their well-being,” it said in a statement.

“To date we have had extensive engagement with colleagues on the voluntary redundancy programme and this will continue. We have dedicated teams in place to address any queries as colleagues continue to review details of the package. In addition the CEO and other senior colleagues are hosting sessions to answer colleagues’ questions directly.”

The bank also said it had engaged with all representative bodies and would “continue to do so”, with further meetings planned with the FSU over the coming weeks.