Belfast Telegraph

Minister in talks over cuts at banks

By Margaret Canning

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has met Ireland's banking trade union to discuss the impact on Northern Ireland of job losses in the sector.

First Trust parent Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Ulster Bank, which jointly employ around 3,400 people in the province, have already announced redundancy programmes which will see around 650 people lose their jobs.

Northern Bank, which has a staff of 1,600 in the north, has said it has been making around 60 redundancies a year for the past three years.

Bank of Ireland, with 1,160 employees in Northern Ireland, is understood to have no plans to cut jobs. However, it has already shed around 3,700 posts in a major restructuring over the last three years.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said his meeting with Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) boss Larry Broderick and others from the sector was "informative".

"We discussed and shared concerns at the job losses that have been announced within the banking sector and the potential impact that this may have on the branch networks in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Bank restructuring is essential but this is a difficult time for the bank employees and I recognise their desire to have certainty as quickly as possible.

"Looking forward, Northern Ireland needs a competitive banking sector that can meet the needs of businesses and consumers."

Larry Broderick said Mr Wilson "indicated he wanted to protect as many jobs as possible and supported the union's view any redundancies should be voluntary".

"He was very clear than Northern Ireland has a very keen interest in branch networks being retained," he said.

Ulster Bank announced last year it would be cutting 950 jobs north and south. Both the union and the bank have consulted with a mediator in the Republic who has issued proposals on adjusting the terms offered by the bank.

The union is balloting Ulster Bank members on whether they accept the changes proposed by the mediator.

These include improving the terms of redundancy to paying four weeks' salary per year of service instead of three-and-a-half.