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M&T Bank Corp. officials have begun a series of town-hall meetings with employees of Bank of America Corp.’s Getzville mortgage-servicing facility in the CrossPoint Business Park, and they hope to be able to make the first round of offers to fill at least 600 jobs by May 17, officials said.

But the process comes with a slight catch. Bank of America says it will not give severance pay to any employee who does not apply for an M&T job. And if a job is offered but the employee turns it down, no severance will be paid.

That’s the trade-off for securing a large number of job openings and equal salaries, said Bank of America spokesman Dan Frahm.

“We entered into this lease and employment agreement with M&T Bank in the best interests of our employees and the community, given our need to reduce our employment at the Getzville location, and there are a lot of benefits,” Frahm said, citing the preferential treatment.

For those employees who are hired, M&T has agreed to maintain their pay levels and credit them for their years of service at Bank of America.

If the jobs aren’t comparable, the employees aren’t qualified, or the employees clearly would not fit with M&T, they are unlikely to be offered jobs – which means they could get severance, he said. But they won’t know that until they go through the process. Severance pay is typically a week or two of pay for each year of service.

“Severance programs are designed to help bridge employees’ transition from our company to the next, ideally in comparable roles,” he said. “These are comparable roles, doing largely what the employees do today.”

Bank of America is closing its 14-year-old operation because it no longer needs as many people servicing mortgages. The facility employs 1,200 people.

M&T is taking over the lease and hiring half the employees for its own servicing business, after winning a contract to manage a “substantial” number of mortgages that a third-party acquired from Bank of America.

M&T is reserving 600 jobs for the Bank of America employees, not for the general public, and it has set up a separate online “portal” through which employees can apply and schedule interviews.

“There’s a lot of people we want to talk to. We very much want to fill all those jobs. We’re trying to be organized about it,” said M&T spokesman C. Michael Zabel. “We want to get the information out. We want to answer questions. We’ve set up a process. We’ve created a portal exclusively for those employees, and we want to show them how to use it.”

The bank plans to conduct interviews for the open positions between April 16 and 25, and it will extend offers by May 17, Zabel said. After that, if there are positions that haven’t been filled, M&T will conduct a second round of interviews and offers, and it will also make available almost 400 other jobs the bank has in Western New York. That process would last through the end of July.

Frahm said the bank is working with other large employers in the area – such as Citigroup and GEICO Corp., both of which also are are hiring – as well as some others that contacted the bank after the news came out, to “ensure our employees have opportunities with them.”

Any on-site job fairs or other assistance would not happen until after the M&T jobs “have been confirmed.”

“Our employees are free to not interview for M&T positions, and they’re free to interview for other positions with other employers,” Frahm said. “But this is an assurance to at least half the employees that they can smoothly transition to another role, with no interruption in their employment. Working with any other employers would not have such assurances for impacted employees.”

email: jepstein@buffnews.com