Ulster Bank 'profiteering' at stricken rival's expense
ULSTER Bank has been accused of "naked profiteering" by organising late openings to poach customers from axed Halifax branches.
Next week the bank will extend hours at 42 branches it operates near the 44 Halifax branches where hundreds of staff face compulsory redundancy.
The longer hours, from 10am until 7pm, will start on Monday, although the Halifax branches will not begin to close until May.
Trade union Unite, which represents staff at Halifax, is furious at the move, which it condemned as "akin to dancing and singing at a car crash", and urged people to "walk quickly past" the doors of the Ulster bank branches involved.
And the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA), which represents staff at Ulster Bank, who are being asked to work overtime, said the new arrangement had not been fully negotiated with staff before the bank announced it.
"This is the kind of naked profiteering that damages banking management in the eyes of the Irish people," said Unite regional officer Brian Gallagher.
"Unite's battle on behalf of 750 workers to present alternative options to the closure of Halifax will continue. This action on the part of Ulster Bank is akin to dancing and singing at a car crash.
"We would hope that anyone with a concern for Irish jobs will walk quickly past their open doors." Earlier this week, Halifax-owner Bank of Scotland (Ireland) announced 750 redundancies at the branches and head office. Some of the workers at its head office are still unsure whether they will face redundancy and the bank's total 1,700 workforce will decide at a meeting today whether to ballot for industrial action.
Ulster Bank, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, defended the move to extend opening hours for the new 'Customer Welcome Programme'.
It said it was designed to "support Halifax customers at this difficult time".
"We understand that these customers are facing decisions regarding their financial future and want to make this as easy as possible by offering them dedicated support at this time," it said.
IBOA members balloted on the extended hours proposal yesterday, a day after Ulster Bank launched its welcome programme, but the result will not be announced until Monday.
Ulster Bank has had its own troubles after announcing 1,000 voluntary redundancies last year following losses over €9m in the first half of 2009.