Northern Ireland

£2m payout for bank staff after secret bonuses revealed

Secret payments to bosses have led to a £2m payout for almost 700 First Trust bank staff in Northern Ireland.

The bonuses were revealed as an industrial tribunal heard two cases claiming staff had not received money to which they were entitled.

The tribunal ruled that the bank could not plead hardship when it came to paying staff while paying almost £3m in bonuses in Northern Ireland and London.

The executives had been told to keep the payments confidential.

A bank representative told the tribunal that the money, including £426,000 paid to 24 senior managers at First Trust, part of the AIB group were "retention payments" not bonuses.

She said that contested payments being sought by 60 call centre staff were bonuses, which related to past performance.

Hardship

She argued that the payments made to executives couldn't be classed as bonuses because they were designed to retain staff in the future.

The bank also argued that general economic hardship meant it shouldn't have to pay the claims being sought under the tribunal.

In its decision, the tribunal said: "The respondent (parent company AIB) made substantial losses in 2009 and 2010. It required the support of the Irish government in the sum of approximately 20 billion euros. This support was made conditional by the Irish government that there would be no further bonuses or pay increases made.

"However, the bank did make extra non-contractual payments to certain staff in both the First Trust and the AIB UK bank in 2011. These were referred to as 'Special Awards' in the correspondence the tribunal has seen and amounted to almost £3 million in July 2011."

The 60 call centre staff will now get payments of between £2,000 and £10,000 in performance-related bonuses.

Another 600 staff will now be paid an average of £3,000 in back pay after the tribunal ruled they were entitled to be paid increments that had been withheld for three years.

A London employment tribunal has instructed the bank to pay performance-related bonuses of an average of £1,000 each to 250 staff there. The bank is understood to be appealing that decision.

The Irish Bank Officials' Association says AIB "should now make the payments due to all of its staff in all three jurisdictions, Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic."