Ulster Bank accused of 'putting profit before people'

FSU general secretary John O'Connell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE Financial Services Union has condemned the decision by Ulster Bank to close nine branches in Northern Ireland from September, claiming the bank “has put profit before people”.

Ulster Bank told staff on Wednesday that it will close branches in Holywood, Warrenpoint, Dunmurry, Antrim, Ballymoney, Larne, Comber, Maghera and Clogher.

Some staff are likely to be made redundant as a result of the restructure, though this has not been confirmed by the bank.

The FSU union's general secretary John O'Connell said: “This has come as a shock to a lot of people and will cause huge distress for staff and local communities.

“We will be opposing these closures and reminding the bank of its societal role in providing services to local communities.”

And he claims the rationale given for these closures does not stand up to scrutiny.

“If banks continue to cut services, you leave people with no choice but to use digital platforms. There are many people who are unable for varied reasons to bank online.

“Ulster Bank have put profit before people and shown a complete disregard for communities and particularly older people and vulnerable people who will be without banking services due to this announcement.”

Mr O'Connell said the FSU will oppose compulsory redundancies and it is urging politicians from all parties to come together in opposing the decision.

“Banks have lost the trust of people since the banking crash. Closing services is not the way to rebuild that trust.”

Sinn Féin economy spokesperson Caoimhe Archibald has asked Ulster Bank for a meeting regarding any potential redundancies and said she stands with unions and workers in opposing compulsory lay-offs.

She said: "This come on the back of a swathe of branch closures which is eroding the availability of banking services in small towns and rural areas across the north. This has an impact on staff, on customers who don't or can't use digital services, and on small local businesses."

A spokesman for Ulster Bank said: "As with many industries, most of our customers are shifting to mobile and online banking, because it's faster and easier for people to manage their financial lives.

"We understand and recognise that digital solutions aren't right for everyone or every situation, and that when we close branches we have to make sure that no one is left behind.”

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