Lloyds ATM staff to get pounds 1,000 Y2K bonus

LLOYDS-TSB, the high street bank, is giving its computer staff pounds 1,000 plus pounds 30 per call out in return for being available to stop automatic teller machines (ATMs) running out of cash over the four days of the millennium weekend.

The pay-outs - which are believed to be among the most generous in the industry - are likely to cause resentment among employees of other banks, who will also need to be on-call 24 hours a day to cope with the huge demand from New Year revellers for cash. The risk of ATMs breaking down or running out of cash is particularly acute this year as most high street branches will be closed for an unprecedented length of time over the festive period.

NatWest staff, who are already feeling the pinch as the bank pushes through economies in an attempt to fend off rival bids from two Scottish banks, are said to be unhappy at the payments they are scheduled to receive for providing a similar service.

However, a spokeswoman yesterday denied claims that staff will get a pounds 100 flat rate fee for the weekend.

She said that it was impossible to generalise since those among NatWest staff who were needed over the millennium weekend will be paid widely differing amounts depending on the nature of the job and when and how they were required. HSBC is also believed to have come to a relatively generous arrangement with its staff about millennium ATM cover.

An HSBC spokesman declined to confirm any numbers. He said: "Taking into account the disruption to families, the nature of this unique event and the amount of time that is involved, we have agreed an appropriate remuneration package but it would be wrong to compare individual payments both between individuals and with other banks, as that could lead to misinterpretation."

The Bank of England has already said that it will make available an extra pounds 20bn in notes to cope with the likely surge in demand. Many banks have been especially careful to take precautions over the millennium weekend.

They fear that a breakdown of an ATM machine might wrongly cause customers to think there is a Y2K related computer failure and trigger a panic. IT experts say they are aware of at least one bank which has been considering posting an "out of order" sign ahead of the holiday weekend on a number of its least accessible ATM machines

The unnamed bank wanted to avoid the risk of not being able to get to them to load up with more cash and customers assuming that the machines were breaking down because of millennium bug problems with the bank's main computer system.