'Scrooge' EBS axes workers' Christmas payment
A FINANCIAL institution has offered its staff an interest-free loan after axing their annual Christmas payment -- worth a month's salary -- at the last minute.
There were angry scenes when staff at EBS were told they would not receive their annual extra month's pay because of rules governing AIB, which merged with EBS in July.
They were due to receive the payment this week, but only learned it was being scrapped at a meeting on Tuesday.
Staff are now balloting for industrial action and could go on strike in the days before Christmas. EBS acknowledged the payment, known as the "13th month" payment, is specified in the employees' contracts. However, it said that it was not pensionable and was not performance-related but rather an annual payment made at the end of each year.
Asked if managers would continue to get a "13th month" payment, the company said their payment was "base salary" which they could choose to have paid over 12 or 13 months -- but was not classed as a bonus. A statement released by the company acknowledged the late notice to staff who were due to receive the Christmas payment this week. As compensation, the company said it would offer staff an interest-free loan for the equivalent of the Christmas payment, which could be repaid over 12 or 24 months. For an individual earning a €30,000 salary, the payment would have amounted to €2,300 before tax.
The Department of Finance said: "Given the significant cost to the State of the financial assistance to Irish banks, which has protected jobs in the sector, the Government insisted as part of the Placing Agreement that no new bonuses would be paid."
It added that EBS Christmas bonuses were raised with the department in late October/early November, claiming it was made clear to human resources management at EBS at that time that bonus payments were prohibited under the placement agreement.
Colm Quinlan, of the Unite trade union, said: "We have been shocked by some of the callous disregard shown to staff across the banking sector in recent years but this goes straight to number one in the chart of cynical acts.
"Even Scrooge would not have stooped as low as this," he said.
The 13th month payment has been paid to workers for the past 45 years.