The union representing bank workers is to seek a 6% pay increase for its members working in the main retail banks here and an increase in the entry point pay scale.

The Financial Services Union says bank employees deserve proper recognition for the huge work they have done.

"The backdrop to pay negotiations this year is that all our main retail banks have reported a return to profitability in 2021, significantly earlier than any of them had envisaged," said John O'Connell, General Secretary of the FSU.

"Brought about by a mixture of decreased competition and a growing economy that has banks talking about a return to paying dividends to shareholders and lobbying hard for the lifting of the pay cap and a return of bonus schemes for senior executives."

Mr O’Connell said a profitable banking sector is good for staff, customers and society and the union is not about to denigrate the success.

But he added that the proceeds of the success must be shared.

"If dividends are returning for shareholders, staff are entitled to expect an appropriate reward for their huge contribution in providing a stable banking system throughout the pandemic," he said.

"Staff also need and deserve a proper return for the huge work they have done over the last two years where their professionalism has helped transform the banks, playing a vital role in their return to profitability."

The pay claim comes as the consumer price index as measured by the Central Statistics Office showed that prices were rising by 5.1% in the year to October.

Many economists expect prices will peak in the final quarter of this year before reducing again next year, although the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain constraints make forecasting more difficult.

"Any negotiated pay increase should address the huge cost of living for bank workers in Ireland which has had a direct effect on the living standards of our member," Mr O'Connell said.

But banks are also returning to profitability, with stockbroker Davy estimating that AIB is sitting on around €900m in surplus capital and Bank of Ireland reporting a 17% increase in operating profit to the end of September.

Mr O’Connell was speaking at a meeting of the General Council of the FSU.