Staff object to plan for telephone banking on Sundays
IT is billed as 24-hour banking, seven days a week, every day of the year. But staff at Bank of Ireland's '365' online and phone service are in dispute over plans to make them work every day.
The row erupted when managers unveiled plans that would allow its 500,000 customers to hear a voice at the end of the phone from Monday to Sunday.
Currently, they can only talk to customer-service agents from Monday to Saturday. However, an automated phone service and internet service are available any time.
Management at the bank now plans to extend its phone service from April by introducing Sunday working as well as extending working hours on Saturday.
Bank of Ireland confirmed that it plans to roll out the new working arrangements over six months on a pilot basis and will continue it if there is enough demand.
"This plan is driven by customer demand for agent assistance," said a spokesperson for the bank.
It is understood that Bank of Ireland plans to recruit staff to cover some of the additional hours.
Customer-service representatives are available from Monday to Friday, from 8am to midnight, and from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays.
The new plans mean that they will still be available during the same weekday hours, but also from 9am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, excluding public holidays.
Sources said small numbers of staff were already available in customer service on Sundays, but only to cover emergencies, such as the loss of bank cards abroad.
The normal phoneline is not manned.
The Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) said it was shocked that the changes to work practices were announced without any talks with staff.
It is also concerned about the implications that the move to Sunday working may have on other staff working in the banking sector.
But banking sources claimed that the use of online and phone banking was growing and that this was likely to mean weekend working would become the norm.
"I think some people might be surprised that you can't talk to a customer-service agent on Sunday," said a source.
"As we see a growth in direct channels in banking, people feel a need for certain services 24/7 and there is a growing need to have access."
Customer-service agents are normally contacted when a customer experiences a difficulty, but are not needed for regular banking activities, such as transferring balances.
Queries to customer services often arise when customers cannot log in online, or an ATM 'eats' their bank card.
Internet services and the automated phone service are often used by customers to check their balance and pay their bills.
It is understood that management is due to meet the IBOA in the coming days in an attempt to resolve the dispute.