IBOA shocked at scale of Ulster Bank plan on job losses and branch closures

Issued : 14 March 2014

Ulster Bank’s plans for over 1,000 additional job losses and around 40 more branch closures will come as a shattering blow to both staff and customers, said IBOA General Secretary, Larry Broderick, in response to an extensive interview in today’s Irish Times by the Bank’s Chief Executive, Jim Brown.

“Over 1,600 permanent jobs have already been cut in Ulster Bank in the last four years. So further job losses on this scale are bound to have an impact on the level of service to customers – whether these losses are planned among front-line staff in branches or in the many supporting roles – which may now be outsourced or off-shored to locations outside Ireland. At the same time, the planned closure of another 20% of Ulster Bank’s branch network will cause additional barriers to customer access.

“Ulster Bank is one of many banks which appear to be using internet banking and mobile phones as the pretext for withdrawing face-to-face services to customers. Ulster Bank, of all banks, should know how dangerous it is to become too dependent on IT solutions.

“Equally disconcerting is Mr. Brown’s confirmation today that Ulster Bank is in discussions involving a merger with one or more other institutions - which could lead to either a change in ownership of the Bank in the Republic of Ireland or further restructuring. Such a development would also have major implications for both staff and customers.

“While IBOA had been seeking clarification from Ulster Bank management about its plans for the future in the wake of all the recent speculation, the Bank’s response – repeated as late as yesterday – was that the plans had still to be finalised.

“Clearly, the Bank’s plans were far more advanced if Mr. Brown was able to provide so much detail to the Irish Times. It is disappointing that Ulster Bank’s customers and employees had to learn of these wide-ranging plans through a newspaper interview. It is especially disappointing considering the support given by customers and the sacrifices made by staff in very difficult circumstances. It does not seem to match up to the declarations of both RBS Chief Executive, Ross McEwan, and Jim Brown, himself, to put the customers at the heart of everything the bank does.”

“We have already received expressions of concern from a number of public representatives in Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We will be renewing our contacts with these politicians who want to ensure that as a subsidiary of RBS – which is over 80% owned by the British State – Ulster Bank operates to deliver the maximum benefit to the communities it serves,” he said.

The Union has now sought an urgent meeting with Mr. Brown to make arrangement to open formal negotiations with IBOA in line with the earlier commitment given by Ross McEwan, the Chief Executive of RBS, Ulster Bank’s parent company.