In the same week as somebody planned a triumphal first birthday in government photo opportunity for Fine Gael, Allied Irish Banks (AIB) announced a crushing redundancy package of 2,500, one in six of its workforce.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny moved swiftly to cancel the photo shoot after one of his cabinet colleagues, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, of Labor, described the planned event as “silly.”
Amid farcical scenes, Kenny ordered the shutdown of a photo shoot at which TDs (members of Parliament) and senators were to parade with star-shaped placards marking Fine Gael’s “first year of achievement.”
Rabbitte’s earlier description of the “silly” event on RTE radio prompted a bitter backlash and public outrage. Kenny said he didn’t know the photo-op had been arranged until that morning.
One senior government source told the Irish Examiner, “We couldn’t have pictures of a guy at AIB crying because he’d lost his job next to some gobs***e TD from down the country waving a little Fine Gael star.”
Opposition figures seized on the shambles in Fine Gael, with leading independent TD Finian McGrath saying, “This is just another example of a government that is becoming more and more out of touch with the lives of ordinary people.”
In the AIB jobs crisis, the bank has kept the door ajar for forced redundancies in the biggest job-cutting plan ever devised by an Irish bank. The bank is optimistic that it will be able to cut one in six jobs across its 15,000-strong workforce through voluntary departures.
But it has kept the door ajar for possible compulsory redundancies saying it would “need to consider other options in due course” if it didn’t get them voluntarily.
The scale of the job losses exceeds the 950 at Ulster Bank announced in January. Some 750 jobs are being cut at Bank of Ireland and 360 job cuts were announced last year at Permanent TSB.
Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), the new entity that houses the former Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, is slashing jobs more severely.
The headcount at what were two lenders will fall from a combined 2,200 at their peak to between 600 and 700 this year. IBRC is being wound down over a long period.
AIB has been deemed to have a viable future as one of the government’s two “pillar” banks.