Belfast Telegraph

300 First Trust Bank jobs face axe in AIB cost cutting

By Clare Weir

Up to 300 workers at First Trust Bank could lose their jobs after parent company Allied Irish Banks revealed that 2,500 posts are to go across the Republic, Northern Ireland and Britain.

The total figure is 500 more than originally announced just over a year ago.

AIB, which was effectively nationalised last year, said that the job losses will be achieved on a voluntary basis in a bid to save the bank over £150m.

The cuts will equate to a 19% reduction in the group's overall staff levels, which applied proportionately to First Trust, would result in 260 job losses out of a staff of 1,300 in Northern Ireland — a figure described as “devastating” by the bank’s union.

But one banking industry insider has told the Belfast Telegraph that as many as 300 posts may be at risk.

The cuts represent more bad news for the banking sector, coming just weeks after it was announced that Ulster Bank is planning to cut its workforce in Northern Ireland and the Republic by 950. Of this figure, 350 jobs will go in Northern Ireland while the remaining 600 will be lost in the Irish Republic.

The total number of job cuts represents around 15% of the company's 6,000 staff across Ireland.

AIB says it wants to see half of the redundancies, which will include an early retirement option, taken during this year.

Staff could be offered two weeks’ statutory redundancy plus three weeks’ pay for every year of service. Full details on the scheme will be announced next month after consultation with unions.

AIB’s chief executive David Duffy said that there will be extensive consultation and dialogue with staff.

“We aim to implement a severance package that is fair to people at all levels in the bank, while reflecting the very difficult financial position that AIB is in and the huge taxpayer support on which we continue to rely,” he said.

“I am confident that AIB will achieve sustainable profitability with a reduced cost base essential to delivering this recovery.”

AIB’s staff union, the Irish Bank Officials’ Association (IBOA), said that “ordinary bank staff” will suffer disproportionately because of “mismanagement” at the top.

Larry Broderick from the union said: “IBOA has argued that First Trust Bank has a very important role in the economy of Northern Ireland and that everything must be done to maintain the integrity of the branch network, to keep in place the support functions in Belfast and also to ensure that the customers in Northern Ireland and Great Britain have continued service from AIB Group.

“The union hopes that, as part of the negotiations on the restructuring programme, we can achieve these objectives in the interests of staff, customers and the First Trust brand in Northern Ireland.”

“This continuing haemorrhage of jobs in the financial sector shows no signs of abating.

“We need a realistic strategy to strengthen existing employment and create alternative opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Moy Park has said that just under 20 posts are to be redeployed.

A spokeswoman for the company said that the move was part of creating “a more streamlined and focused operation”.

“A small number of posts, 19 in total, will be affected by these changes and we have commenced a process of full consultation.

“The company is very hopeful that those affected will take up alternative positions within the group, where in Northern Ireland the company employs close to 5,000 people.”

Background

The Allied Irish Banks Group is made up of three divisions — AIB Bank ROI, Capital Markets and AIB Bank UK, which includes the First Trust Bank. Since early 2010 the state-owned bank has been shedding assets including the M&T Bank Corporation, which was sold in November 2010 and BZWBK which was sold in April 2011. A decision to sell AIB Group (UK) was halted in November 2010 due to “challenging market conditions” in the UK. The current structure is under review as part of the restructuring plan for the organisation

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