Bailed out Allied Irish Banks (AIB) will lay off 2,500 workers - one in six of its workforce - to save 170 million euro in a year, it has been confirmed.
Union representatives fear branch closures are inevitable after bank bosses announced a deeper cutbacks plan with half the redundancies this year and the rest next year.
The massive lay-offs, the biggest in Irish banking, will be finalised in April with workers facing drastically reduced pay outs under strict Government rules.
Larry Broderick, Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) general secretary, said clerks, tellers, front desk staff and other rank-and-file workers are paying for reckless executives.
"It`s a devastating day for those thousands of staff who are not responsible for the state the bank is in today," he said. "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."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was a difficult day for workers but added he hoped they could find a future in Dublin's International Financial Services Centre it aims for 10,000 new jobs over five years - despite those facing redundancy mainly coming from retail front office banking rather than investment or currency trading backgrounds.
"I would hope that some numbers of those who worked in AIB would be able to gravitate to that sector," the Taoiseach said. "Insofar as the Government are involved, obviously it's a difficult day for anyone to say I'm not going to have a job over whatever period."
David Duffy, AIB chief executive, said if 2,500 voluntary lay-offs are not secured the bank would have to enforce job cuts.
"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," Mr Duffy said. "I am confident that AIB will achieve sustainable profitability with a reduced cost base essential to delivering this recovery."
AIB is the latest big bank to slash its workforce in Ireland after Bank of Scotland (Ireland) announced in 2010 it was pulling out of the country and Ulster Bank announced 950 redundancies in January.