Bank staff plan walkouts over festive opening

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The Independent Online
Customers at four high street banks could find services disrupted today as staff walk out in disputes over pay and working hours.

Thousands of members of the Banking Insurance and Finance Union at Midland are to stage a 24-hour strike in protest at the bank's insistence on opening this afternoon. In the past the bank has closed early to allow employees to prepare for Christmas.

At Royal Bank of Scotland branches in England and Wales, where employees are stopping work at 1pm, management is demanding that Christmas Eve be regarded as a normal working day from 2000. The bank is offering compensatory time off of one day this year and half a day next year, but none thereafter.

Staff at the Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks are taking action today over salaries. Both banks have imposed performance-related pay rises which the union claims will give many staff increases below the inflation rate and others nothing at all.

Ed Sweeney, general secretary of the union, said of the disputes over working hours: "Christmas Eve afternoon is a traditional holiday for bank staff and we don't accept that it could ever be a normal working day."

On the issue of pay, Keith Brookes, the union's assistant secretary, said banks were making record profits and could well afford "decent" pay rates. "It's no surprise that staff are fighting back," he said.

Richard Pulleyn, employee relations manager at Yorkshire Bank, said the stoppage would have a minimal impact on customer service. He estimated that nine out of 10 branches would be unaffected. The bank said its offer was worth an average rise of 4 per cent.

At Midland a spokesman argued that only one in 10 staff favoured taking industrial action and he expected virtually all branches to be open as