We deserve bonus -- Nationwide staff
Frustrated employees threaten action over merger as pay claim thrown out
STAFF at bailed-out Irish Nationwide argued they deserved bonuses and a pay rise because they faced redundancies and co-operated with major changes as the building society was wound down.
A total of 110 staff who made a claim for wage increases also said they were poorly paid relative to the industry norm.
The Irish Bank Officials Association, which represented the workers at a Labour Court hearing on the claim, said staff typically earn between €22,000 and €30,000 a year and are not "fat cats".
Further details of its submission to the Labour Court, seen by the Irish Independent, can be revealed today.
The union said a December bonus payment -- worth two weeks' pay -- had existed for 30 years and was a key part of their contractual remuneration.
But the Labour Court threw out the claim, saying there was "no justification" for payment of the bonuses or a pay increase of 3.5pc under the last national pay deal "in the context of the excessive losses" at the bank.
In its own submission, the company had argued it "no longer exists for all practical purposes".
It said that the payment of a bonus would be "inappropriate and impossible". And it added that the bonus was not a contractual entitlement and there was no reference to it in any contracts of employment.
"Given the unprecedented economic circumstances and the emergency financial measures introduced by the Government, the company must take every measure possible in relation to the reduction of expenditure generally," it said.
It said last year's Credit Institutions Act prohibited it from paying bonuses or increases without the approval or consent of the Finance Minister.
The Irish Bank Officials Association has since threatened that staff may "withhold co-operation" with Government plans to merge the failed financial institution with Anglo Irish.
However, a spokesman yesterday insisted this does not necessarily mean they will take strike action.
They will consult with staff in the coming days.
"With Irish Nationwide's former CEO still thumbing his nose at the Anglo Irish Board which now has responsibility for the society's affairs, the prevailing feeling among staff is one of frustration and discontent," said general secretary Larry Broderick.
"Under these circumstances, it would not be surprising if our members decided to withhold co-operation with the restructuring of the INBS business with Anglo.
"However, we will not prejudge their response until we have had an opportunity for full consultations with our members."
Finance Minister Michael Noonan was not available for comment yesterday.
In a statement, Anglo Irish Bank said it had "noted" the recommendation and would work with the union "to develop appropriate negotiating procedures for the future".
However, it refused to say what the increases would have cost the nationalised bank.