Bank staff action escalates

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Workers at three more banks are expected to join a wave of Christmas Eve strikes over pay and opening hours which already involve employees at Barclays and Midland.

Union members at Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks are protesting over performance pay deals which the union claims will give many staff below-inflation rises. Royal Bank of Scotland workers in England and Wales are in dispute over a decision to make all-day opening on Christmas Eve normal working from 1999. A stoppage is planned in Scotland to preserve the traditional 2 January bank holiday. Management at Clydesdale, Yorkshire and Royal Bank of Scotland argued that the votes in favour of action in each case did not constitute a majority of their employees.

Meanwhile, leaders of 1.5 million local government workers yesterday issued a challenge to government policy by submitting a claim for a 5 per cent pay increase or pounds 500 whichever is greater. Union negotiators representing the country's largest bargaining group are aware that ministers have planned for a minimal increase in the pounds 12.5bn wage bill and that management will insist that any rise will have to be funded by improvements in productivity. Keith Sonnet, head of local government at Unison, the public sector union, argued that quality council services could only be delivered by a well paid workforce.