THE Royal Bank of Scotland has come under fire after asking employees to give up their spare time to carry out DIY work in bank branches in need of repair.
The initiative, called Branch Force, was outlined in a leaked memo sent to staff at the taxpayer-owned bank on Monday.
The message read: “Colleagues from across the bank can sign up to play their part and help to improve their local RBS or NatWest branch through painting, tidying up and general DIY as part of Branch Force.”
It continued: “If you would like more information about how you can give some of your spare time to help spruce up your local branch, register on the dedicated intranet page. We’ll then match you to a Branch Force day, in your preferred area, held in January next year.”
An RBS spokeswoman confirmed “spare time” could involve staff doing work voluntarily outside their normal working hours, for example on Saturdays. She added: “It would be up to them when they want to give up their time.”
Jane Howard, managing director, branch and private banking, said: “Our branches are the face of our business and we are continuing to make a substantial investment in their modernisation and refurbishment. However, there are many things which require immediate attention, simple things that by working together we can fix.”
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Calvin O’Brien, of personal and business banking services, added: “Branch Force will demonstrate the power of working together, as people from across the bank support our frontline colleagues to deliver an outstanding customer experience.”
Within hours the announcement had attracted a swathe of negative comments with one disgruntled employee asking if it was “1 April not 1 December”.
A recent survey of RBS and NatWest’s 1,683 branches revealed that more than 400 need help with technology and property issues, with branch managers requesting help with general DIY and repairs.
Employees have flooded the DIY SOS post on the bank’s internal server, Insite, with comments. One said: “Totally stunned. RBS has completely lost the plot.”
Another added: “Is the bank really in such dire straits that it has come to this? If I wanted to volunteer I would do so for a charity and not so the bank can avoid paying professionals.”
Hundreds of employees then “liked” posts that criticised the “farcical” initiative labelling it an “all-time low”.
One worker stated: “Does anyone review the strategy and communications of content on Insite? Clearly not. Asking staff to do painting, tidying up and general DIY in branches is incredibly embarrassing.”
The plea to staff members’ charitable natures follows last Thursday’s announcement scrapping Your Bank, a long-standing scheme that provided a range of discounted mortgages and loans for staff – interest on a staff loan of £10,000 was 5.9 per cent, instead of 6.9 per cent.
One staff member said yesterday: “There has been a wave of frustration since the last thing that made it nice to work here was taken away. And now they have the stupidity to follow it up with this attempt to get us to do painting for them.”
Last month Royal Bank of Scotland, still 79 per cent taxpayer-owned, was forced to admit that it had over-estimated its financial strength during recent stress tests designed to ensure stability of Europe’s big banks.
The announcement was the latest in a long line of embarrassments for the bailed-out bank, after it was hit with a £56 million fine for a 2012 IT failure and a £400m fine for rigging foreign exchange markets.
Also last month, the under-fire bank was forced to apologise for giving incorrect evidence to the Treasury committee after directors appeared to answer claims that RBS’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG) had deliberately killed off viable firms.
A report by Lawrence Tomlinson, adviser to Business Secretary Vince Cable, claimed that RBS was making money out of small and medium-sized business that were in financial distress.
This issue was highlighted by bank workers reacting to the DIY call to arms, with one inquiring: “Are we not removing work from local SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises) who I’m sure would love to tender for this work thus supporting the UK and local economy?”
A spokeswoman for RBS said: “This initiative is voluntary, and enables our head office teams to spend more time in branches and lend a hand to do simple tasks such as clear out cupboards or filing, allowing frontline staff to focus on our customers.”
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