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AIB staff threaten to strike over changes to pay, pensions and benefits

STAFF at Allied Irish Banks (AIB) have threatened industrial action if management plans to change pay, pensions and benefits go ahead.

The Finance Union, IBOA, said its members were virtually unanimous in their rejection of a pending cuts package, while an overwhelming majority were prepared to join in litigation to prevent the implementation of the proposals.

The union also claimed a substantial majority of its 8,000 members said they would take industrial action if the bank attempted to impose changes without proper negotiation and agreement with the union.

Larry Broderick, IBOA general secretary, said the result should provide a wake up call for AIB's senior management and for the Irish Government, AIB's predominant share-holder.

But it would not reveal the exact figures of the ballot.

"As a responsible trade union, IBOA is willing to engage in negotiating an acceptable solution to these issues," Mr Broderick added.

"Industrial action is always a last resort for us.

"However, our members have now given us a clear mandate to pursue such a course if the bank attempts to proceed without reaching agreement."

IBOA said AIB's senior management wanted to prolong a pay freeze in place since 2009 for at least two more years, to reduce pension benefits further, and to remove other modest benefits enjoyed by some staff.

A delegation from IBOA, led by the general secretary, will present a letter against the proposal to the AIB chief executive David Duffy and its board at its AGM.

Mr Broderick said AIB needed to engage meaningfully with his union on a fair deal for those staff who would be essential to the future capacity of the bank to meet the very daunting challenges that lay ahead if AIB Group was to recover.

"The very negative reaction of staff to the chief executive's latest proposals should come as no surprise when you consider the litany of issues that have arisen in the recent past," Mr Broderick said.

He criticised the bank's expenditure of over €100 million euro on consultants' fees, the revelation of substantial discretionary "retention" payments to a select group of staff, the generous parting terms on offer to former senior executives who were responsible for the crisis in the bank and its failure to honour contractual payments due to rank and file staff in the form of increments and performance-related awards.

Mr Broderick also claimed there had been a lack of accountability, transparency and an overall absence of direction in AIB since the onset of the crisis in 2008.