Campaign For Branch Staff

It’s About Time – 03.04.2020

Since the start of this crisis the union has been campaigning tirelessly for more front-line staff working in Group sites to be allowed to work from home. The more we all stay at home and reduce our social contacts the less chance we have of catching the virus and, more importantly, spreading it to the old and vulnerable in our communities.

It’s taken far too long but the bank’s senior management team seem to be finally listening. A number of the largest branches are now introducing shifts with staff divided into two teams working one week on and one week off. In some of the smaller branches staff are working 2 days on and 2 days off. We also understand that Banking Consultants will be given laptops to enable them to work from home helping connect customers.

Jo Harris, Managing Director, Lloyds Community Bank said: “I want to be clear that we do not intend to call on colleagues to travel to work unless it is absolutely necessary to provide an essential service”. We welcome that commitment but she needs to ensure that all branches follow best practice across the whole of Lloyds. Unfortunately, we’ve been here before with those in Gresham Street thinking that just because they’ve issued an order, everybody follows it. They don’t and any changes in working practices need to be policed from the centre. In our experience command and control doesn’t work in Lloyds. The other community banks – Halifax and Bank of Scotland – should be following the same best practice.

We will be monitoring this very closely over the next few days.

In respect of the non-branch locations, we would expect the bank to be using some of the 20,000 new laptops to allow more front-line staff to work from home. We are hearing more and more stories of staff doing work that is not “essential” and line managers need to understand that by doing this they are risking the health and wellbeing of their staff for no good reason. The bank senior management team should review independently all work that is being done at Group sites in non-branch locations to make sure it is “essential”.

Bonuses For Front-Line Staff

Last night people across the UK took part in a second “Clap for Carers” tribute, saluting NHS staff and other key workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Delivery drivers, supermarket staff, bank staff, care workers and bin collectors were among those honoured by the nation.

Front-line staff working in organisations like M&S, Tesco, Aldi, Asda have all been given ‘thank-you’ bonuses ranging from 10% to 15%. Morrisons is giving its staff a one-off bonus of £1,050. Front-line staff in the Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland Community banks and all those working in Group sites who are taking the greatest risk coming into work are some of the lowest paid staff in the bank.  A one-off bonus, for example, worth at least 15% of salary for the period of this crisis seems only fair for these front-line staff.

The GEC should get its cheque book open now.

We will also be writing to the Chancellor asking him to guarantee that bonuses paid to key front-line staff in essential businesses are free from tax and national insurance.      

Cracking The Whip

The Prudential Regulatory Authority said that it had effectively ordered the banks to cancel the dividends they had proposed for 2019 and got pledges to stop pay outs this year including share buyback. The PRA threatened to use its supervisory powers, which include requiring a firm to undertake or stop a certain action.

In his letter to Lloyds, Sam Woods, the Chief Executive of the PRA says: “The PRA also expects banks not to pay any cash bonuses to senior staff, including all material risk takers”. That raises a number of important issue and we have written to Sam Woods asking for clarification. A copy of that letter is set out below. 

Dear Sam

Lloyds Banking Group Cash Bonuses

I refer to your letter of 31 March 2020 to Antonio Horta-Osorio, Group Chief Executive, Lloyds Banking Group regarding the suspension of dividends and buybacks on shares until the end of 2020, and the cancellation of payments of outstanding 2019 dividends.

In that letter you say: “The PRA also expects banks not to pay any cash bonuses to senior staff, including all material risk takers.” I should be grateful if you could define what you mean by “senior staff” in the context of Lloyds Banking Group. Are you referring to the 292 senior staff as set out on page 127 of the Group’s Annual Report and Accounts 2019? A copy of page 127 is attached for your information. Furthermore, are you referring to deferred cash bonuses paid in 2020? If part of those bonuses have already been paid out, do you expect those to be clawed back by Lloyds? Does the ban also cover bonuses that might be earned in 2020 but paid out in 2021? 

As you know we are the largest trade union in Lloyds and represent most of the senior staff in branches and offices that are currently helping customers and businesses through this difficult period. I’m sure you will agree with me that it would be unfair to penalise those staff because of the exceptional circumstances caused by COVID-19.

I look forward to your response.

Members with any comments or issues they would like us to deal should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).

“Our Priority Is Ensuring Your Safety”, Really. – 01.04.20

In his latest address to Lloyds staff from the comfort of home, Antonio Horta-Osorio, Group Chief Executive, said that: “our priority is ensuring your safety” and then finished by saying to those frontline staff working in group sites that: “The whole of the bank is with you at this time”. But the reality is front-line staff don’t feel that the bank is with them. For many, the job they are doing is not a “necessity” and the bank could be doing more to “ensure their safety” and that of their families by allowing them to work from home.

Medical Reality
 
The aim of suppression is to reduce the reproduction number (the average number of secondary cases each virus case generates) to below one and the only way that can be done effectively is to reduce all our social interactions to those people we live with. In the real world that’s not possible but every time we leave home our social interactions increase and so does the chance of us catching or spreading the virus. For those Lloyds staff still going to work the chances of them catching or spreading the virus are magnified significantly. It follows that if your priority is “ensuring the safety of your staff” you would do everything humanly possible to reduce those staff working at group sites to the absolute bare minimum. It’s at moments like this we find out about people’s priorities and motivations. Mr Horta-Osorio needs to take control of the situation personally and do more to protect is staff. At this time, that’s his only responsibility.

Reduce Overstaffing, Now

The problem is very simple: branches and offices are either overstaffed or doing work which is not necessary to complete within the next few weeks. The solution is also simple: allow all branch/office staff to work from home on a rotational basis. Many have told us that they are sat around doing nothing and those that are seeing customers are doing nothing that can’t wait a few weeks. What many frontline staff resent more than anything is being told to come to work to do nothing, by executives who are sat at home.

The bank’s senior leadership team need to hear from those on the front line. If you have something to tell us, please do email us at in.confidence@btuonline.co.uk. To speak to our 24 hour Advice Team, please call us on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).
 

You Help Clean The Garden, Antonio – 31.3.2020

The Government has repeatedly said employers must make every effort to help staff to work from home. We appreciate that banking is a key public service but Lloyds could be doing a lot more to stop the spread of this virus by allowing more homeworking across all areas of the bank and reducing the number of inessential staff in branches.

One branch is overstaffed now that the bank has reduced opening hours and the available services. Instead of allowing staff to work from home on a rotational basis, staff were told to clean the back garden. Now the back garden at that branch consists of a series of large shared bins, where rough sleepers generally congregate. If Antonio Horta-Osorio, Group Chief Executive, thinks that’s what Lloyds branch staff should be doing during this COVID-19 pandemic, then we challenge him to go to the branch this week and help staff clean up the garden. And if he’s prepared to go, then it’s only right that I give him a hand. I’ll bring the protective clothing.

In another branch, banking consultants who had nothing to do were told to go upstairs to start cleaning the branch because they were being paid to work. And that’s the kind of messages we are getting from members right across the Lloyds network. We don’t blame line managers; they are getting no advice from the bank centrally about what to do. Instead, we blame those in senior positions who no doubt are dictating policy from the comfort of their own homes.

Jenny Tippin, Group Director People and Productivity, has said that 40,000 Lloyds staff are now working from home. 20,000 additional laptops have been secured to enable more staff to work from home. But does that include branch and contact centre staff? Mrs Tippin said that key staff will be reimbursed for using whatever travel option allows them to best follow the social distancing guidance. The best social distancing option is to stay at home according to the Government, so why is she not doing everything possible to allow more branch and contact centre staff to work from home?

Jo Harris, Managing Director of Lloyds Community Bank, has said that “we are continually monitoring customer behaviour as it changes rapidly in the light of evolving government advice. It is our intention to minmise the number of colleagues required in each of our branches…” Ms Harris is not monitoring the situation hard enough from the comfort of her virus free study. There are lots more Lloyds staff who could be working from home, protecting them and their families from catching the virus.

The simple truth is Lloyds is bringing more staff into work simply because it can, not because it needs to. Lloyds needs to stop trying to offer a normal service and to bring into work only the bare number of staff needed to provide basic banking services to customers.

This is about sacrificing commercial objectives for a short time to protect the health of the Lloyds staff. It’s that simple.

If Antonio Horta-Osorio, Jen Tippin and Jo Harris think working in branches is safe they should join the front-line tomorrow morning and share the risk! The Union will pay for the cost of whatever travel option best allows them to observe the social distancing guidelines!

Protection Screens, Now

If Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose have put up Perspex protection screens in their stores then why hasn’t Lloyds already done it? That should have been the first job.

We would expect all branches to have their screens fitted by the end of week given the valuable protection they provide to staff.

If your branch hasn’t got a protection screen by then, contact the Union’s Advice Team and we will publish a daily list of branches naming and shaming the top managers who are not protecting their staff. Lloyds has had enough time to source these screens and we want them in as quickly as possible. No more delays.

What’s Going On In Your Area?

Some groups are better than others when it comes to protecting the health and wellbeing of staff. Staff being told to work in the garden or clean the branch are classic examples of the kind of stupidity that we want to stamp out as soon as possible. We rely on members telling us what’s happening locally. Lloyds will say things centrally but when that’s communicated down the management chain what’s comes out at line management level is invariably different. If there are things going on in your area which fall short of what Lloyds is saying centrally or anything which you feel we should be aware of then contact the Advice Team immediately.
 
If you have something to tell us, please do email us at in.confidence@btuonline.co.uk. To speak to our 24 hour Advice Team, please call us on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).
 

It’s Only A Start – 24.3.2020

The bank’s position following the Prime Minister’s announcement that it was business as usual for Lloyds was akin to the kind of bravado we’ve seen from Sports Direct. It seems that overnight the bank has reflected on its position and the announcement today will be welcome news for staff but a lot more needs to be done. It’s a pity that the bosses in Gresham Street have had to be dragged kicking and screaming, mainly by this union, to change their positions.

  • Given that all interviews are now being cancelled and branch opening times scaled back, something we’ve been calling for since last week, the bank should look at what roles are going to be required in branches over the next few months. If certain roles are not required, then the bank should look at releasing staff to work from home on a rotation basis, even if that means them just accessing training and development materials. The aim should be to release as many staff as possible to work from home in all areas of the bank.
  • Important and worth repeating over and over again is the importance of social distancing in all areas of the bank. If some of the supermarkets can implement it successfully then so can the bank. Lloyds needs to make sure that social distancing measures are applied universally across the bank and that includes contact centres and operational centres. Line management have a responsibility to ensure that the social distancing rules are applied without exception. If it’s not possible for customers to stand 6.5ft apart, then the branch should operate a one in, one out policy. If that’s not possible, then branches should close.
  • In respect of contact and operational centres the bank should be looking at what jobs are essential and what jobs can be done from home. Having spoken to lots of members, it seems to us that some jobs are not essential and could quite easily be left for a few weeks and the bank needs to be more creative about those jobs that are left.
  • Social distancing of desks in contact and operational centres is a step in the right direction but offices need to be cleaned properly at the end of every day. Money should not be a barrier to protecting the health and safety of Lloyds staff wherever they work.
  • In respect of disposable gloves, any form of protection is better than none. If that means staff have to dispose of gloves after every customer interaction, then so be it. Equally, all front-line staff should be issued with face masks immediately. And where is the sanitising gel the bank said would be delivered to branches a few weeks ago. Some branches still haven’t got any. Lloyds is asking branch staff to be in the front-line but not giving them the protection they need or deserve. We don’t want to hear any more excuses from the bank, the time for action is now. You could bet your mortgage on the fact that if Antonio Horta-Osorio and his senior management team were serving customers they would be in full hazmat suits with oxygen tanks.
Please do email us at in.confidence@btuonline.co.uk if you have something to tell us. For advice, please call us on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1) or email us at 24hours@btuonline.co.uk.
 

An Update For Branch Staff – 24.3.2020

Lloyds has now confirmed (as at 24th March 2020) that:

– Only essential services will be provided in branch, all other activity and interviews will cease. We will focus on three core tasks:

– keeping cash in our ATMs,
– continuing to offer a counter service for cash and cheques
– helping our vulnerable customers and those in financial difficulty

– The 2m social distancing guidance issued to all branches yesterday remains valid
– We will reduce weekday opening hours with no weekend opening (we will confirm these later today)
– We will halt all mobile branch services


Our Advice

We’re pleased that the Bank has now responded to BTU’s campaign to protect staff and taken these important steps, whilst still fulfilling the critical core banking role that the public needs. There is now more work to do in non-branch areas and we will be giving that high priority.

The Bank’s guidance is clear; if you’re placed under any pressure to undertake activities which are not in line with either the Bank’s or the Government’s guidance, please contact the Advice Team straight away on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).

More Protection For Lloyds Staff – Now – 23.3.2020

The UK Government’s classification of many banking roles as critical sends a clear message that it wants as many banking branches/contact centres/operational centres to be open as possible throughout this crisis. Even in Italy, which is now the global epicentre of COVID-19, essential services such as supermarkets, grocers, pharmacies and banks continue to operate. It’s the same in all other countries. However, if Lloyds is to continue to play its part in this national effort then it needs to make sure that it is doing everything possible to protect the health and wellbeing of its staff and that includes the following:

1. All non-essential interviews with customers should be stopped immediately. The only face-to-face interviews that should even be considered – applying the social distancing rules – are those related to the loan schemes recently introduced by the Chancellor to help small and medium sized business over the next few months. And even then, the bank should look at conducting those interviews by phone or online if possible. The Government is telling the public to avoid parks and other public spaces, so two people sitting in a small interview room for a few hours discussing day-to-day banking products like getting a better rate for savings or adding Club Lloyds is not social distancing and must be stopped now.

2. Making sure that social distancing measures are being universally applied across the bank and that includes contact centres and operational centres. Some are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances but many are not doing anything. We know that the number of customers visiting branches has increased dramatically over the last few weeks. Many of those customers are elderly and are withdrawing large amounts of money because they believe branches are going to close and they won’t have access to their savings. For many people, it’s still a cash society. Those customers are queuing as they would normally and many branches are not insisting that the social distancing rules – stand at least 6ft apart – apply. That’s significantly increasing the risk of customers passing on the virus to each other and to members of staff. Local Directors have a responsibility to ensure that social distancing is being applied. If it’s not possible for customers to stand 6ft apart, then the branch should operate a one in, one out policy. The bank has said that this should only be done in exceptional circumstances. We agree but these are exceptional circumstances – the bank has a responsibility to protect its customers and staff so it must revisit this issue again and send stronger guidance out to branches.

3. Ensuring that iPads are safe to use. The use of iPads in branches is an issue that is coming up all the time. Staff are rightly concerned that the use of iPads by customers is a possible source of infection both for customers and for themselves and they are trying everything possible to mitigate those risks. But more importantly, how is it possible to apply the social distancing rules if staff are expected to help customers use the iPad? The bank needs to revisit its guidance on this issue. If it’s not possible to use iPads safely, then branches should be able to withdraw them altogether.

4. Members are also reporting a significant increase in the number of customers being referred to branches by the Fraud Department. Those customers have had their transactions/cards blocked. When branch staff refer customers to the Fraud Department via the telephone, they insist on a branch staff member being involved in those conversations and that means constantly passing the telephone between the member of staff and the customer. It’s not always possible (and it’s always going to be awkward) to wipe a phone whilst it’s being passed around and it’s just another source of infection for staff and customers. The bank needs to find a new way to deal with this.

Hundreds of members have already written to us to share their concerns. Please do email us at in.confidence@btuonline.co.uk if you have something to tell us. For advice, please call us on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1) or email us at 24hours@btuonline.co.uk.

 

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