Belfast Telegraph

Shocked Ulster Bank staff gagged from talking to Press

By Margaret Canning

Ulster Bank employees were in shock yesterday as they digested the news of the swingeing job cuts.

Earlier speculation inside the banking industry had put the number of losses in Northern Ireland at 260.

But the reality of 350 redundancies in Northern Ireland and 600 in the South was even harder to absorb.

It is believed Ulster Bank may make the job cuts through a voluntary redundancy scheme which would be open to all staff.

At headquarters in Belfast's Donegall Square, a branch in Dunmurry and the bank's imposing call centre building in Danesfort in Stranmillis yesterday, all employees refused to share their views on the job cuts. "We can't comment, unfortunately.

"We've been told by managers not to comment," was the typical response.

Another young employee in Danesfort, where a call centre operation mainly employs people in their 20s and 30s, said: "It's like anything. These things happen."

Just visible from outside Danesfort House were rooms with the banners 'suspense team' and 'thank you for your commitment to our customers'.

No actual announcement has been made by the bank about whether there will be branch closures - but a spokesman said the number of branches was "continually under review".

Seamas Sheils, spokesman for trade union the Irish Bank Officials Association, said: "With 400 jobs going in retail across Ireland, it's impossible that some branches won't be affected. There is a legitimate customer and a legitimate staff interest in what happens."

Leading figures in both politics and industry echoed the shock surrounding the scale of the bank's cuts, which were almost on a par with the bank's 1,000 job losses which were revealed in 2009.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "This announcement has come as a huge shock to staff who work for Ulster Bank.

"Such a significant number of job losses is very worrying."

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