Bank staff strike over refusal to recognise holiday

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The Independent Online

Staff at one of Scotland's oldest banks are to stage a one-day strike in protest at the management's refusal to recognise 2 January as a public holiday.

In a country where the New Year celebrations can last for several days, the decision by the Royal Bank of Scotland to deny staff the day off or to pay improved overtime rates prompted the finance union Unifi to ballot 3,000 of its members north of the border.

The rival institutions Abbey National, Clydesdale Bank and the Bank of Scotland are treating 2 January as a public holiday and will close that day.

A spokesman for the union said its members were furious that the bank, which made a profit of more than £4.4bn last year, was denying staff the chance to be at home on a traditional holiday.

"We have managed to agree with every other major finance employer in Scotland, premium and voluntary working arrangements for 2 January and all other bank holidays," Andy Colognori, the national secretary of Unifi, said.

"The Royal Bank seems determined to steamroller its desire to ignore Scottish tradition, and open branches on that day without agreement. It says customer demand is behind the need to open, but cannot demonstrate where it gets its information from."

Yesterday, the union called on its members working for the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest's Scottish branches to strike on Wednesday, although it said it was still willing reach an agreement. Mr Colognori said: "The last thing our members want is to inconvenience customers, but if the action does go ahead, I suppose few customers will be inconvenienced as they would not be expecting the bank to be open in the first place."

A bank spokesman promised that a limited number of branches would be open on 2 January, which is not a holiday anywhere else in Britain.

The strike is the latest development in a long-running row between the bank and unions over pay which saw some long-standing employees receive no wage increase.

The bank, which is estimated to be worth more than £9bn, includes in its assets a railway company and 900 branches across the world.

Founded in Edinburgh in 1727, the bank, which claims to have invented the overdraft, has more than 22,000 employees. It also claims to have been the first bank to introduce a house purchase loan scheme, and to have invented the personal loan.