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Union concerned at reports of threat to jobs at Ulster Bank

The Financial Services Union has responded to reports that UK parent company NatWest is considering closing Ulster Bank in the Republic.

Image: Leah Farrell

THE FINANCIAL SERVICES Union has expressed concern at reports that around 2,900 jobs at Ulster Bank in Ireland could be at risk.

The Irish Times last night reported that NatWest, the bank’s parent company based in the UK, was considering winding down its Irish operation, which would put a significant number of jobs in jeopardy.

A spokesperson for NatWest has told TheJournal.ie that the bank’s plan to grow Ulster Bank in Ireland remains “unchanged” but that the group is reviewing strategy in light of the Covid pandemic. 

In a note to staff this morning, Ulster Bank chief executive Jane Howard described the report as “speculative”. 

Commenting on the reports, Gareth Murphy, Head of Industrial Relations and Campaigns at the FSU said, “The news tonight for Ulster Bank staff is shocking and deeply upsetting for all”. He said the union had met to discuss the future of Ulster Bank in Ireland.

The union represents about 70% of staff at the bank in Ireland and said it will be communicating with them. It has called on NatWest, which until recently had traded under the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) name, to “issue a statement clarifying its commitments to staff and customers” in Ireland.

In a statement, Murphy said, “we will fight for the future of this bank and for jobs”.

Ulster Bank has 146 branches across the Republic and 90 in the North. Earlier this month, the bank announced it was to cut 266 jobs, having incurred a loss of €276 million in the first six months of the year.

General Secretary of the FSU, John O’Connell expressed dismay at the reports, calling on the bank to immediately reassure staff and the union that Natwest is committed to the future of the bank.

O’Connell said: “If this story is substantiated we are shocked and angry at how the bank is treating staff and customers. We have been engaged in good faith in a restructure process over the last number of weeks to secure jobs and minimise redundancies and the bank reassured us of the commitment from Natwest to Ulster Bank.”

He called on Howard and NatWest CEO Alison Rose to refute the story and assure staff in Ireland that their jobs are secure.

In a memo to staff this morning, Howard said, “It’s important to emphasis to your colleagues and to customers that we have seen commentary like this before and this, like previous stories, is also speculative.”

A NatWest Group spokesperson told TheJournal.ie, Our strategy to grow our Ulster Bank business in the Republic of Ireland organically and safely remains unchanged.

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“We continue to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 and the challenges to the economy and we are reviewing our strategy appropriately and responsibly in light of these events.   

“In the event of any changes being made to our strategy, these would be undertaken with full consideration of any impact on customers, colleagues and shareholders in the first instance. Our priority now is to continue to remain focussed on supporting our customers and colleagues in these difficult times.”

About the author:

Laura Byrne  / Assistant News Editor

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