STAFF FROM the state-owned EBS Building Society have voted to end their industrial action over the withdrawal of a ’13th month’ payment before Christmas.
A ballot of 300 members of the Unite trade union saw 94 per cent of members agreed to end their action and to accept a settlement reached between EBS and the union at the Labour Relations Commission last week.
That deal will see half of the disputed payment being given directly to the staff involved, with EBS also contributing an additional €4.8 million into the staff pension fund.
In return, staff have agreed that normal industrial relations procedures will be followed while EBS is integrated into AIB, which took over the building society last year as part of the government’s programme for rationalising the banking sector.
Staff had held two one-day work stoppages as part of their protests and had been due to hold another day of action on January 26 before it was deferred pending the outcome of the talks.
Unite officer Colm Quinlan said the dispute was one its members were “determined to undertake”.
“Employers have too often used the difficult times in which we live to make changes to workers pay, terms and conditions that are unreasonable and based on opportunity rather than a genuine business case.
“It was important to fight back in this instance and workers who would never have known what it was like to do so have been empowered by the reality that effective protest, on the right arguments can produce the fair result and the right result.”
Quinlan said membership of the union had risen to almost 100 per cent among lower-grade workers since the dispute began, and pointed out that the result of the ballot was a stark turnaround from the 98 per cent who voted to support strike action originally.
The union had claimed that staff above the Assistant Manager grade were given an opportunity to restructure their pay so that they could keep the ’13th month’ payment, but that no lower-paid staff were given a similar option.
EBS disputes this, however, saying management at the building society have not received any bonuses since the introduction of the State banking guarantee in 2008.
Although the payment was not performance related, the government had classified the payment as a ‘bonus’, which it said could not be paid under the terms of the State’s bailout of AIB.