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Union agrees Bank of Ireland outsourcing deal

In September 2003, employees at the Bank of Ireland’s technology operation backed a deal reached by the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) on the terms of their transfer to Hewlett Packard, with which the bank has reached an outsourcing agreement.

The Bank of Ireland has concluded an EUR 600 million agreement with Hewlett Packard, whereby the bank's information technology infrastructure services will be outsourced to the US-based information technology multinational. The announcement of the move caused concern among the 500 staff of the Bank of Ireland's Dublin-based technology operation, who are to be transferred to Hewlett Packard under the deal. Members of the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA), who make up almost one-third of the affected workers, held a 24-hour work stoppage in protest on 1 August 2003. However, on 8 September they voted in a ballot to accept an agreement on the terms of the move and are expected to transfer to Hewlett Packard in the near future.

The final agreement was based on a set of detailed proposals brokered by the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey. The agreement contains assurances on future job security and compensation payments and, crucially, on employee representation arrangements involving IBOA at Hewlett Packard, which is a non-union company. The deal is expected to act as a template of sorts in relation to any future outsourcing agreements in the banking and finance sector in Ireland.

Assurances on the future of employee/industrial relations were given to IBOA in a letter from the Bank of Ireland, which confirmed that the bank and Hewlett Packard fully accepted `all aspects´of Mr Mulvey’s recommendations. Mr Mulvey had noted that, during the discussions on the transfer arrangement, senior executives from Hewlett Packard had met with IBOA representatives `to discuss and elaborate upon certain terms and conditions of employment´. Mr Mulvey said this was to be welcomed and `should form the basis for future relationships´.

Mr Mulvey went on to place the conduct of future industrial relations between Hewlett Packard and IBOA in the context of current EU transfer of undertakings regulations. These stipulate that if the transferred undertaking maintains an identity distinct from the remainder of the new employer's business, the new employer will be considered to recognise an independent trade union to the same extent that the union was recognised by the previous employer. If the undertaking does not retain a separate identity, however, the parties must agree to renegotiate recognition.

In a statement issued after the ballot result, Hewlett Packard said that it was `pleased that the Bank of Ireland staff have voted in favour of acceptance of the recommendations of Mr Kieran Mulvey´and that it `looked forward to welcoming all the transitioning staff´in the coming months. The IBOA general secretary, Larry Broderick, said: `IBOA members in Bank of Ireland voted to accept Mr Mulvey's recommendations on the basis that their livelihoods, careers and terms and conditions would be protected through their IBOA membership and ability of IBOA to effectively represent them into the future.´