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Taxpayer foots bill for AIB staff at luxury hotel

BAILED-OUT AIB paid for hundreds of staff and their spouses to stay in a four-star hotel during a retirement course.

The bank brought staff and managers from around the country for a one-night stay with a meal at Killashee House Hotel outside Naas, Co Kildare.

Wives and husbands were accommodated too on the grounds that they needed advice on how to cope with their partner's retirement.

The two-day courses were held for AIB staff of all grades and their spouses over a six-month period.

HELPLINES

AIB, which cost taxpayers €20bn to bail out and is 99.8pc owned by the State, confirmed the courses were offered to all staff taking early retirement, which amounts to around 1,300 people between 2012 and the first half of last year.

But it refused to say how many people availed of the opportunity.

However, an AIB source said that between 600 and 700 staff went to to Killashee House, a luxury hotel and spa where midweek B&B for one night costs around €130 for a couple or €100 for a single person.

In contrast, two other banks that received bailouts provided information packs and telephone helplines for their staff.

Permanent TSB confirmed it did not provide any retirement seminars involving hotel stays.

The Herald has also learned that Bank of Ireland did not provide hotel accommodation for retiring staff because this is contrary to policy.

Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys submitted several parliamentary questions about the AIB retirement seminars over a six-month period but received very little detail from the bank in response.

"It's completely unacceptable that a bailed-out bank that has cost us €20bn is taking up to 700 staff and their spouses away for a night in a luxury four-star hotel," he said.

Mr Humphreys questioned why AIB had not used its own facilities to provide retiring staff with support and advice.

And he called on the bank to give a guarantee that it would not happen again.

"This is another example of poor management decisions in AIB. We need to see them living within their means – the lavish practices that defined banking in Ireland need to stop," he said.

AIB said it was reviewing its retirement seminars, given that the number of staff leaving over the next two years will be lower.

Since its bailout, AIB has increased charges to customers and increased variable rate mortgage interest rates in a bid to return to profitability.

It has also closed down rural bank branches, and plugged a hole in its pension scheme in 2012 by transferring €1.1bn of loan assets to to fund the early retirement scheme.

Part of that money is also helping to pay the "super-pensions" of former senior managers. These include €500,000 a year paid to former chief executive Eugene Sheehy, who was in charge at the time of the infamous bank guarantee in 2008.

VALUABLE

The retirement seminars were held as a result of AIB's plan to reduce staff by 2,500. The bank said it was a long-standing and valuable practice to have seminars to help staff plan for retirement. It said they were cost-effective, but refused to say how much they cost.

"These seminars, conducted over two days, include presentations from organisations such as the Retirement Planning Council of Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and medical practitioners," it said.

hnews@herald.ie


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