IRELAND - The Irish Bank Officials' Association (IBOA) has agreed to defer using proxy votes at the annual general meeting (AGM) of AIB, following proposals put forward by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) to end a dispute on pay, pensions and other issues.

AIB Bank had previously proposed a number of changes to reduce the €1bn pension deficit including a mandatory 5% contribution from staff not already making contributions to the defined benefit (DB) scheme and changes to the structure of pension benefits.

The trade union rejected the proposals and referred the matter to the LRC, which has now issued a recommendation which IBOA admitted does not address all of its members' concerns but provides "significant improvement on the Bank's position and the best that can be achieved without recourse to industrial action".

In the proposals, Kevin Foley, director of conciliation to the LRC, separated the pension changes from the other issues of pay and job security and recommended "the parties agree to engage urgently and comprehensively over the coming four weeks in order to achieve a common position with respect to pension issues arising at this time".

Foley acknowledged IBOA's suggestion that the talks needed to be "informed by professional advice and full disclosure of information", and confirmed the bank would "facilitate this fully", while the scheme actuary will also be available to the process where required.

He therefore recommended "the parties agree that conciliation will reconvene in four weeks' time to assess progress on this matter".

Larry Broderick, general secretary of IBOA, also said in an update to members that the LRC "has made it very clear that any developments in relation to pensions must be progressed on the basis of a common position and not on the basis of any unilateral proposal to implement a solution to these discussions. Once again this is a significant development in the context of the Bank's earlier proposals".

As a result of the proposals and the agreement of both AIB and IBOA to recommend them to members, the trade union has confirmed it "will defer acting on proxy votes received from members at the forthcoming EGM/AGM and following confirmation of the Bank's acceptance of these proposals, will arrange a ballot of all IBOA members in the Republic of Ireland".

The EGM/AGM is scheduled to be held tomorrow (13 May 2009) and IBOA had requested members unable to attend the meeting to assign their proxy vote to the union to allow it to use the event to "highlight the concerns of staff". (See earlier IPE article: IBOA members reject AIB pension plans)

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