Ulster Bank union seeks meeting over plans to cut 1,000 staff
Plans also afoot to close 40 branches
THE main staff union at Ulster Bank has sought a meeting with management over plans top cut 1,000 staff and shut branches.
While those numbers have previously been outlined by the bank, the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) said an interview with the head of the bank Jim Brown suggests the plans are at an advanced stage.
The union said it has now sought an urgent meeting with Mr Brown with an eye to opening formal negotiations between the union and the bank.
That would be in line with an earlier commitment given by Ross McEwan, the chief executive of RBS, which owned Ulster Bank, the union said.
UK state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland has commissioned investment bank Morgan Stanley to advise it on potential merger opportunities for its Irish unit, Ulster Bank, the business's chief executive was quoted as saying today.
Ulster Bank, which is the biggest bank in Northern Ireland and the third largest in the Republic of Ireland, has racked up losses of £2.5bn over the past two years.
It accounts for less than 4pc of RBS's assets but was responsible for 20 percent of its bad debt charges last year.
"We think there may be further consolidation in the market. We're looking to see if Ulster Bank can play a part in that," Jim Brown said in an interview with the Irish Times.
"There are a number of smaller institutions, without getting into the specifics, and there may be opportunities with those in terms of fulfilling our strategic ambitions, but I couldn't mention specifically who they might be."
RBS's own chief executive Ross McEwan said last month that he wanted to develop Ulster as a challenger to Ireland's biggest two lenders.
Earlier this month The Sunday Times newspaper said a team inside RBS was looking at tie-ups between Ulster and other Irish lenders, such as permanent tsb (IPM.I) or the Irish units of Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO) or KBC (KBC.BR).
At the same time Ireland's finance minister Michael Noonan said he would like a "significant" new bank with a big balance sheet to enter its lending market this year to drive competition in the diminished sector.
Noonan said he was looking at the possibility of overseas banks partnering with Irish lenders to create a competitor to the country's biggest lenders - Allied Irish Bank (ALBK.I) and Bank of Ireland (BKIR.I).
"If you look at the banking market, it's very clear that there's the two pillar banks and there's us. What we're looking to do is to become a more compelling choice in the market," Brown said.
"The government is aware that we are looking at other options. The government has been very clear. They are looking for a third banking force in the market ... There's a lot of work to be done to see if its viable or not."