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Dispute over Co-op Bank job losses: Redundancies break agreement, union says

THE 'ETHICAL' Co-operative Bank, which boasts strong links with the labour movement, has started to make managers compulsorily redundant.

The Banking Insurance and Finance Union yesterday accused the bank of breaking a job security agreement under which the company can shed jobs only on a voluntary basis.

Union officials point out that the bank only recently announced a scheme to insure customers against job loss. Under a new strategy to make the bank the natural home for the 'caring middle classes', fund managers have also eschewed investment in 'unethical' enterprises. Tobacco companies and the fur industry are among the no-go areas.

The union said up to 100 managers were under threat of redundancy this year and it had received an internal list that could lead to the loss of another 100 staff next year.

Keith Brookes of Bifu denounced the decision to force managers out of the company as 'dishonourable and unacceptable'.

A spokesman for the bank said only five managers had been made compulsorily redundant and the management was confident that all other job losses would be achieved voluntarily.

Union officials said their members no longer trusted the management. Bifu had resolved to lobby the banks' executive, protest to CWS, the parent company, and inform unions that used the bank. Bifu also intends to leaflet customers and branches and initiate a publicity campaign to expose what it sees as the two faces of the bank.

Mr Brookes warned that if the management continued with its 'programme of madness' there could be a ballot on industrial action.

Union officials are demanding a redundancy deal similar to that agreed with National Westminister, which allowed for voluntary severance only under enhanced terms. Co-op officials had offered a 'paltry' enhancement far inferior to its competitors', the union argued.

A spokesman for the bank accused the union of trying to exaggerate the numbers who had been made to leave the company.

The managers concerned had been on a 'surplus to requirements' list for several years and some of them had refused to take up alternative job offers.

At the beginning of the year, the company calculated that it needed to shed around 150 non-managerial staff, but that figure had been brought down to 70. 'We won't need to make any of these compulsorily redundant this year and we're confident it won't happen next,' the spokesman said. The Co-op was also confident that all managerial job losses could be achieved voluntarily.