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Bank staff fear for jobs as cuts loom in Republic

Over 2,500 employees at two Northern Ireland banks are waiting to see if they will be among thousands of jobs losses expected in their Irish sister banks in the coming weeks.

First Trust owner Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Bank of Ireland (BoI), which have received billions in state funding from the Irish Government, are preparing for more cuts on top of the 3,000 lay-offs already made since the banking crisis started.

AIB could lay off as many as 3,000 people this time round.

But a spokesman for First Trust, which employs 1,500 people in Northern Ireland, said redundancies were not expected in the bank in Northern Ireland ahead of its sale, which was announced in April.

A spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland said she could not give any details of jobs losses and whether the jobs of its 1,100 staff in the province could be at risk.

A spokesman for parent AIB said yesterday that the bank was not ruling out lay-offs but added that there were “no advanced plans”.

However, sources at the bank expect job losses to run into four figures. Many of those expected to be affected supply support services to the bank's overseas businesses in Poland, the UK and the US, all of which are for sale.

At Bank of Ireland, up to 1,000 lay-offs are expected to be announced over the next two weeks.

“We have been aligning our costs with new, lower levels of business activity throughout the group and we are committed to continuing this,” said a spokeswoman. She declined to comment further.

Bank of Ireland is also selling off a number of divisions including New Ireland Assurance and ICS Building Society in order to meet the terms of a European Union restructuring plan.

News of the job losses, which come just days after the latest live register figures showed a record number of 450,000 people seeking unemployment benefits, is expected to dominate Dail debate in the last week before the summer recess.

The news also comes as a blow to the Government which has already had to pump €3.5bn each into AIB and Bank of Ireland following the financial crisis, with the State now owning 18.6% and 36% of the institutions respectively.

Opposition parties have described the losses as more evidence that the Government did not have a jobs policy as the economy continues to suffer.

Meanwhile, banking union IBOA said it had not entered into negotiations with the two banks on additional redundancies. It added that the two banks had laid off about 3,000 people between them in the past two years.

Belfast Telegraph