Hundreds of Ulster Bank staff from around the country attend online meeting as Financial Services Union steps up its campaign

Issued : 3 February 2021

Hundreds of Ulster Bank staff from around the country attend online meeting as Financial Services Union steps up its campaign

Staff express fury and dismay at disrespect shown to them and bank’s loyal customers

More than 500 Ulster Bank staff attended an online meeting this lunchtime (03.02.21), as the Financial Services Union stepped up its campaign to save the bank, protect jobs and retain banking services for communities. The meeting heard of their fury and dismay at how they have been treated because of the lack of communication between the bank, which is carrying out a strategic review of its operations in the Republic of Ireland, and its employees.

Today’s meeting was part of an ongoing campaign by the FSU to save Ulster Bank’s operation in the Republic of Ireland. Media reports on the strategic review of the bank’s business indicate that all options are being considered, including the wind-down and closure of the bank, with speculation about what options are being considered for its loan book, including the possible involvement of a vulture fund. Ulster Bank, which is part of the NatWest Group, employs some 4,000 people in towns and cities throughout the island of Ireland, some 2,400 of which are in the Republic of Ireland in its 88-strong branch network. Some 600 staff in Northern Ireland would also be impacted.

Commenting, FSU general secretary, John O’Connell said: “NatWest’s lack of communication with staff around this strategic review is disrespectful and has caused considerable stress and uncertainty for them. This was highly evident at today’s meeting, where staff expressed fury and frustration at how they – and their customers - are being treated. They said this uncertainty – which would be difficult in normal times, not to mind in the middle of a pandemic - is having an impact on their mental health, as well as on their relationship with their customers – some of whom have been with the bank for years – as they have no answers to their questions.

“The FSU will be conveying the sentiment of the meeting directly to the CEO of Ulster Bank, Jane Howard, when we meet with her tomorrow. It is not a sustainable position for the bank to continue with its existing line about the strategic review process, as it risks taking people for fools. All indications point to a decision being made in the next two weeks. The bank needs to show respect for its staff and immediately engage with us in a meaningful way about its actual plans so that our members – its employees – can have clarity about their employment.”

He added: “The closure or carve-up of Ulster Bank would not just impact on Ulster Bank employees, it would have a terrible outcome for communities, customers – both business and personal - and staff, as well as for competition in the Irish banking sector. We are also concerned that it would open the possibility of a vulture fund buying up part of the loan book.

“We are calling on the Minister for Finance, and the Central Bank, to make a statement about these recent reports. We have also written to the Minister to ask him to meet with us. If NatWest decide to exit the Irish market, any solution needs to involve the maximum protection for customers, for jobs and the branch structure. The Government cannot, under any circumstances, allow a vulture fund to get its hands on any part of the loan book.”

ENDS

 

Contact: Brian McDowell, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, FSU. Tel: 087-9161225. Email: [email protected].

 

Notes to editors:

  • John O’Connell is available for interview, on request.
  • About the Save our Ulster Bank campaign: As part of its campaign, the FSU has also led the creation of a broad coalition of interested groups covering business, farming and communities, calling on NatWest to commit to the future of Ulster Bank in the Republic of Ireland and to bring an end to doubt and speculation for staff and customers of the bank. To date, signatories include the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; the Irish Farmers’ Association; Mandate Trade Union; Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, and Unite the Union, as well as a range of politicians. Visit the FSU website for further details.

 

About FSU: The FSU is Ireland’s leading union across banking and finance. We represent thousands of staff across the main retail banks, and we have members in more than 70 companies across the finance and fintech sectors. Our members are spread across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain. We are headquartered in Dublin and we also have a presence in Belfast. We are members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and UNI Global finance union.