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Sunday 11 December 2016

Shocked staff tell of broken dreams and fears over wedding plans

Anne-Marie Walsh, Isabel Hurley and Brian McDonald

Published 11/02/2010 | 05:00

BANK of Scotland worker Thomas Ralph's plans to get married this year may be "down the tubes" following the shock announcement of 750 job losses.

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The risk department official (26) does not yet know if he will be one of the unlucky ones who will lose their jobs at head office.

But he considers himself fortunate as he doesn't have a mortgage and has savings that might see him through.

If he does get to keep his job, he is prepared to take industrial action on behalf of those who are sacked.

Most of his colleagues appeared too stunned by the terrible news to make similar threats yesterday.

As they arrived for meetings convened by their union UNITE in Dundalk and Dublin, they hurried past the cameras.

Perhaps they were too afraid to appear over-articulate on TV after management sent what was seen as a 'gagging' email.

A message sent earlier told them that the bank's focus was on "protecting their interests", and that meant they should not speak to the media as it would "fuel debate or misunderstanding".

The fighting talk was left to union officials, who threatened to "forcibly resist" the redundancies and were not ruling out industrial action or a sit-in.

"I'm probably in a better position than some of my colleagues because I don't own a house and have a fairly decent amount of money saved up, but I'm supposed to be getting married this year and that'll probably all go down the tubes," said Mr Ralph, from Cork, who has worked for the bank for more than three years.

"It's a complete shock, a bolt out of the blue, to us all, and they're not saying yet who's going to go and who's going to stay as there's an evaluation process under way. The atmosphere is morbid. People won't talk.

"They're worried and they're not sure what's going to come yet."

Others called on the Government to stop "wringing its hands" and lobby the British government, which has a large stake in the bank.

Poignant

Shell-shocked workers at the Customer Service Call Centre in Dundalk painted a stark picture of broken dreams and an uncertain future after 130 job losses were announced for the Louth town by May.

The human face of the situation is all the more poignant for the young workforce where 17 women are expecting babies and half a dozen weddings are planned.

Process administrator Sharon McGahon has been working at the centre since 2005.

"It's hard on everyone, but we are all working as usual taking calls from the customers, who have been very nice and apologetic that we are losing our jobs.

"There are people expecting babies, planning weddings, everyone has a mortgage to pay and now this comes along. I have a seven-year-old boy. One option could be emigration for us, but that's not an easy option -- I may have to consider it."

Renowned as a friendly and helpful staff in the cut-throat world of personal finance, the nine employees at the Halifax branch in Eyre Square, Galway, were also struggling to absorb the news.

"We can't say anything, I'm afraid, we're not allowed," the young woman behind the counter said.

Irish Independent

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