NIB staff vote on industrial action
STAFF at National Irish Bank (NIB) will resort to industrial action if the bank doesn't suspend recent changes to its pension plan and re-engage in talks, union officials have warned.
NIB announced it was closing its defined benefit pension scheme on September 30, with about 400 workers migrating to a 'hybrid scheme'.
The bank said it had carried out extensive discussions with the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA), but the union says those talks were still "ongoing" when NIB decided to axe the scheme.
The IBOA is now balloting its NIB members on whether the bank acted in an "unacceptable fashion" by deciding to close the scheme. A result is due later in the week.
The union is also asking the NIB to engage in Labour Court talks. An IBOA spokesman said NIB would explore options "up to and including industrial action" if it cannot reach agreement.
"It's not our ambition to go there (industrial action) but if management continue to behave the way they are behaving, we may by default end up there," he added. A spokesman for NIB said it was "considering" the IBOA's request for further talks at the Labour Court, but declined to be drawn further. The IBOA is also making representations to NIB's Danish parent Danske and invoking an international trade union agreement governing Danske's employee interactions.
NIB stressed that it had "consulted extensively" with the IBOA on the pension changes. When the changes were announced, NIB said deficits at its defined benefit scheme were at "unsustainable levels".
Under the 'hybrid' model, defined benefit entitlements earned to date will be fully protected, but all future benefits will be accrued on a defined contribution basis.
Staff are also being asked to increase their contributions from 2.5pc to 5pc, with the bank committing to contribute at least 15pc.
NIB suffered losses of more than €341m in the first half of the year and is closing about 30 branches as part of a major restructuring programme.
The bank, which operates as a branch rather than a subsidiary of Danske, has insisted it remains completely committed to the Irish market despite the heavy losses.