Physical meeting by Central Bank officials draws criticism

Union requests executives to display judgment and respect work from home advice

 Central Bank governor Gabriel Makhlouf: “Sharon [Donnery], Ed [Sibley], Derville [Rowland], Gerry [Quinn] and I gathered in North Wall Quay for our first physical meeting since March 2020.”  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Central Bank governor Gabriel Makhlouf: “Sharon [Donnery], Ed [Sibley], Derville [Rowland], Gerry [Quinn] and I gathered in North Wall Quay for our first physical meeting since March 2020.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

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A decision by senior Central Bank executives to meet in person recently at their offices has prompted criticism from staff at the regulator who have emphasised the need to adhere to public health advice on remote working.

The meeting between members of the bank’s executive leadership committee – including governor Gabriel Makhlouf – took place in the bank’s North Wall Quay headquarters on June 2nd.

In an update the following day, Mr Makhlouf told staff that he and other senior executives had met to work on the bank’s strategic plan.

Along with Mr Makhlouf, the meeting was attended by deputy governors Sharon Donnery and Ed Sibley, director general Derville Rowland and chief operations officer Gerry Quinn.

“Sharon, Ed, Derville, Gerry and I gathered in North Wall Quay for our first physical meeting since March 2020,” Mr Makhlouf wrote to staff.

‘Together physically’

“We had a good discussion (helped enormously by being together physically and ‘back home’ in NWQ) on what is an important priority for us and for the [Central Bank] Commission.”

A spokesman for trade union Unite, which represents workers at the bank, said it wrote to management “following confirmation by the governor on June 3rd to staff that he and other members of the committee had attended the Central Bank offices for a physical meeting”.

“The concerns raised related to compliance with public health advice at the time, and the views of our members that such meetings should be held remotely unless absolutely necessary.”

In a letter to the bank in July, Unite said it was important senior bank staff “display the appropriate judgment at this time, when members of the public are being asked to stick with restrictions for a longer period”.

Covid guidelines

Under current guidelines, people should “work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person”. There are exceptions for essential services that cannot be done from home. These include financial and banking services.

In a statement, a Central Bank spokeswoman said its work was deemed an essential service and it had followed public health advice at all times and “continues to advise staff to work from home unless it is determined that attendance at one of our premises is necessary”.

“In the delivery of our mandate in the public interest, from time to time, some of our people attend our premises in order to effectively deliver on our essential services. The meetings that were recently held on site were deemed to both be necessary and permissible in that context.

“The meeting arrangements and attendees complied fully with public health guidelines.”

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