Before we get onto the substance of this Newsletter members will be aware that the in-house staff unions – Accord and Unite – have issued a joint statement with Debbie Crosbie, Chief Executive, on COVID-19 and the bank’s response to the unfolding pandemic. One can only assume that having supported the two unions financially for so long, the bank has called in its markers now things are getting tough.

The statement says: “We are listening and doing our very best to act quickly and respond to the feedback you’re sharing” and “Accord and Unite are at the forefront of decisions and actions to support the health, safety and wellbeing for everyone in TSB”.

Is the bank (in partnership with its two approved unions) looking out for staff and their families when it refuses, despite all the evidence regarding transaction and activity, to allow more branch staff to work from home? Where was the so-called “strong working relationship” when front-line staff were crying out for more protective equipment or making sure the social distancing guidelines were being followed by customers in branches. We were the only union that was pushing for protective screens to be introduced. (see latest update below)

And where were Accord and Unite when it was obvious that staff going into work in Covid-19 conditions deserved extra reward? Neither Accord nor Unite ever mentioned a bonus for front-line staff in any of their communications of which there have been only 2 we can see over the last 2 months of hell for most staff.

Simply rolling over to be tickled when TSB says so is not going to protect the interests of staff. It never has, and it never will. What’s required is a strong, independent trade union that is prepared to stand up for its members whatever it takes. We know the bank’s senior management team, who read and act on everything we are saying, hates our very existence but that only shows that we are doing our jobs properly.

Now can we get back to looking after the interests of our members

Protective Screens Not Fit For Purpose

Members are telling us that the new protective screens, which were distributed to all branches a few weeks ago, are too small and not fit for purpose. The screens are not particularly well designed and because they don’t cover the full width of the counter position, customers are able to pass cash or cheques around the side of the screen directly to the member of staff, which defeats the object of having the protective screen in the first place. In some case, the screens have actually fallen on customers and members of staff.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said that even after the lockdown has been lifted, social restrictions will continue for the remainder of the year. TSB should be carrying out on-site inspections of all branches now with the aim of making sure that the current social distancing guidelines are being followed and producing individually tailored protection screens fit for all the till positions. If those inspections are carried out now, then there is no reason why new screens can’t be in position ready for the summer.

TSB Relaxing The Rules?

It seems that TSB are trying to relax what is deemed to be “essential banking” because it’s seen a spike in customer complaints. There should be no relaxation of the “essential banking” rules just because the number of complaints has increased. It’s the same for all the banks. This is about putting the health and safety of TSB staff and their families first, regardless of minor impacts on customers. Any relaxation of the rules will be resisted by this union. The other unions will do what the bank tells them to do of course.

In her latest update, Carol Anderson, Director, Branch Banking says: “we have created a safe working environment and we can build on this to help make sure the customer experience can be maintained”. We don’t want to come across as patronising but what Ms Anderson fails to grasp is that the working environment is safe only because the bank is limiting the number of customers that go into branches. 

In a recent example a customer wanted to pay a bill in cash despite the fact that he had paid the same bill digitally on at least 4 occasions previously. He was told quite rightly by the member of staff that it was not “essential banking” in the current environment. He complained further and the line manager allowed him to pay the bill because the Area Director had told his group of managers that morning to treat “customers like friends or members of your family when deciding what is essential banking”. That’s a load of rubbish because on that basis everyone would be served, which is probably the point he was trying to get across. The customer should have been told to leave the branch and if he didn’t like what TSB was doing to keep its staff safe then he should take his business elsewhere. The number one priority is the safety of TSB staff and not stupid customers.

Lloyds are not taking any prisoners when it comes to “essential banking”. TSB should be doing the same.

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