Sunday 20 October 2019

EBS row escalates as rival gets 'extra month pay'

Anne-Marie Walsh and Fionnan Sheehan

STAFF at Permanent TSB got a payment worth four weeks' pay, similar to one denied to staff at EBS.

A spokesman for the state-owned institution confirmed last night that a "13th month" payment was made last month.

He said it was not the same as the EBS payment -- which is at the centre of a bitter dispute --because it is classified as annual pay and not a bonus in staff contracts.

But UNITE, which represents the EBS workers, said the payments were "the same thing, to all intents and purposes".

Regional Officer Colm Quinlan said the payment withheld from its members -- worth up to €2,500 each -- was also a 13th month payment, but was not paid because it was described as a "bonus" in their contracts.

He said it was unfair that comparable payments were being made to staff and managers at other financial institutions and managers at EBS, because they had the payment reclassified as basic pay.

The payment at the other state-owned bank has been revealed as EBS workers prepare to strike next Tuesday after the payment was withheld.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said the payment was described as a "bonus" in contracts and no bonuses could be paid under the State's investment in AIB, which is merging with EBS.

"Comparable payments are being paid to management at EBS and staff at Permanent TSB because they are called something different," said Mr Quinlan.

"Other staff get a similiar 13-month payment because it is not described as a bonus.

"The only thing against us is that we didn't get a bit of paper saying this would be reclassified as basic pay but to all intents and purposes it's the same thing.

"If we knew what was coming down the line, we would have got it reclassified, as the managers did."

Mr Quinlan accepted the payment was described as a "bonus" in the workers' contracts, but said it was not a bonus as it was paid each year for 45 years without question and was not based on performance or other criteria.

He said it had been paid in 2009 although the financial institution's accounts said no bonuses were paid that year. Permanent TSB said the payment to staff was annual pay divided into 13 rather than 12 instalments.

"It is the same annual salary split into 13 payments instead of 12," said a spokesman.

"An employee can have the payments spread over 12 or 13 months.

"The Department of Finance is fully aware of it."

Earlier, UNITE said it was "deeply disappointed" after the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore described the EBS payment as "a Christmas bonus".

It has sent a letter to Finance Minister Michael Noonan accusing his officials of deciding to cut members' "pay" without consulting them.

The row erupted after a protest at the Department of Finance yesterday attended by Labour backbencher Gerald Nash, who gave the workers his backing.

And Socialist TD Joe Higgins said that low-paid staff at the building society on wages of €26,000 and €27,000 were being "hammered" just a few days before Christmas.

But Mr Gilmore said the Government's position was very clear that "bonuses should not be paid in our banking system".

The letter from UNITE to the finance minister, seen by the Irish Independent, says that it is "astonishing that your officials made a decision to decrease our members' December pay without any prior consultation".

It sought an urgent meeting to discuss the "true facts of this appalling episode".

Irish Independent

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