Five CUs Sponsor Job Fair For Workers Axed By Local Bank

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Five credit unions in New York sponsored a job fair to help soften the blow for some 170 people who will be terminated when their local employer, Binghamton Savings Bank, merges with Partners Trust Financial Group on June 30.

The bank, Binghamton's oldest locally owned financial institution, has been No. 1 in marketshare here, according to Frank E. Berrish, president/CEO of the $1.5-billion Visions Federal Credit Union.

Berrish said he was disappointed in the new owners' decision to sell and its effect on the community. When the local press criticized the move, the new owners blamed, in part, the "non taxation of credit unions," claiming "we had ruined the industry," he said.

After checking with the local Chamber of Commerce and realizing that no plans were under way to help assist the newly unemployed, Berrish contacted several area credit unions to see if they would be interested in participating in a job fair.

He said his human resources department said it had "14 to 20" jobs open or soon to be opened. Combined with the other CUs, he said, there were about 30 to 40 jobs the credit unions needed to fill.

The event was advertised in the local newspaper under the heading "Attention: Bank Employees" and held at Vision FCU's headquarters. "We ran the ad not knowing what to expect," he said. "At one point, there was a line out the door. I know that one CU had 50 applications and they were all gone within an hour."

According to local news reports, quite a large number of the bank's 483 full-time and 114 part-time employees were offered "generous" relocation packages to work in a new bank operations center outside Utica. But, only a "small fraction" accepted.

BSBS, Binghamton's only remaining independent bank, was sold to Partners Trust for $347 million in stock and cash. The combined operation will have about $3.5 billion in assets.

Berrish said the CUs estimated that more than 100 interested job prospects turned out for the job fair. Other participating CUs included GHS FCU and Horizons FCU, both in Binghamton, Sidney FCU, Sidney, N.Y. and Empire FCU, Syracuse, N.Y.

"I'm sure we will hire some of those people that applied with us," Berrish said. "We are in the process of evaluating their applications now."

Berrish said all who participated were pleased to be part of such a worthwhile event. "I know the employees at the bank were very appreciative," he said. "It's win-win. We get some good new employees who were laid off and its great for our local economy."

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