Page last updated at 18:49 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Ulster Bank to lay off 750 staff

Ulster Bank headquarters in Belfast
The Ulster Bank has said that more than 700 jobs will be lost

More that 700 jobs are to go at the Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the bank has said.

The lay-offs will be rolled out on a voluntary basis, according to the bank. It plans to cut 550 jobs in the Republic, and 200 in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Bank said the First Active brand of mortgage and investment business will close as part of the scheme.

Steve Tweed of the bank officials' union said it would have "intensive negotiations" with the bank.

"We haven't seen the detail behind their decision so it would be our objective to have that number reduced," he said.

"But we also need to sit down the bank and negotiate a voluntary severance package which is attractive, especially in the current economic climate."

The Ulster Bank Group, part of Royal Bank of Scotland, said that it had to "adapt to prevailing market conditions, while strengthening the organisation and its all island reach".

'Changed marketplace'

Ulster Bank chief executive Cormac McCarthy said he did not foresee any branch closures and was confident the bank could find enough workers willing to take redundancy.

"We have 3,000-plus people working in Northern Ireland and it is a voluntary scheme - we have to work with our unions and staff representatives in the coming days and weeks to figure out what the best way forward is," he said.

"We are getting our business fit for what we see is a very changed marketplace, and in many ways we are getting ahead of things - we are satisfied that when we get through this we will have a fit and strong business on the island of Ireland as a whole."

The plan includes making the business a single brand in the Republic, with the merger of its specialist mortgage and investment arm, First Active, into the main Ulster Bank.

The Ulster Bank, which has more than 1.8m customers, has 145 branches in the Republic and 92 in Northern Ireland.

The bank, founded in Belfast in 1836, said its plans in Northern Ireland included measures to support customers, experiencing financial difficulties.

The plan includes funding for the provision of debt advice, staff secondment for debt agency work and a six month postponement on house repossession after a customer first goes into arrears.

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