News has come this morning that Bank of Ireland will close branches in the coming period, two of which are in Borris and Tullow. It was announced as a measure in the Bank’s Annual Results which introduced a range of significant changes to their branch networks and the provision of local banking services to customers. The bank cited a surge in the uptake of digital banking as a reason for these closures. From September 2021, the number of Bank of Ireland branches will reduce by 88 and it will be supplemented by a new partnership with An Post – which will be launched in the coming months. People Before Profit Cllr Adrienne Wallace raised questions about the workers at the centre of this and urged the state to do more to protect their jobs.
She said “This will throw bank workers into deep uncertainty as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on. Bank of Ireland was one of several banks that were bailed out by the state in the wake of the 2008 crisis. The bailout cost over €64billion, with this debt carried by ordinary people to this day. The state still owns a 14% share in Bank of Ireland. They should use their power to immediately halt these closures and to put in place job guarantees for any workers affected.
She continued “The announcement of these closures, follows hot on the heels of the closure of Ulster Bank in the south of Ireland, a move advised by Goldman Sachs and carried through by the British bank NatWest, who are closing Ulster Bank to cut costs. Irish banks are acting as a cartel to cut their operating costs at the expense of customer service and jobs.”
Cllr Wallace concluded “Both of these cases raise the question of taking the banks into public ownership. As it stands, the state owns significant amounts of shares in all major Irish banks, they should stop selling them and force buyouts instead. The banking system’s essential functions should not be in private hands. As it stands banks fleece their customers at every opportunity – in fees, on loans etc. We need a better system that puts customer service and workers, not profits, at the centre of their decision-making. We need a public banking system that will put people first. A system that provides essential banking services to ordinary people, that invests in public projects like home building and public services”