While most of the PR world stayed off line until the end of the
interminable Christmas and new year break, the in-house team at the
Banking Insurance and Finance Union (Bifu) were working flat out.
Head of publicity Noel Howell and press and publicity officer Heather
Tilston were in the thick of Bifu’s battle with the clearing banks.
Workers were protesting against having to work on the afternoon of
Christmas Eve and on 2 January. Until last year UK banks shut at
lunchtime on Christmas Eve and the second day of the new year was a bank
holiday in Scotland.
While the bank workers protested their lack of holiday, Howell and
Tilston gave up theirs to issue nationwide press releases from the
union’s headquarters in London, and organise a photo-shoot of a protest
outside the City head office of Midland Bank.
The PR team even persuaded union officials to turn up to demonstrations
in fancy dress. One official dressed as a turkey and another was
photographed for the Telegraph as Scrooge.
’Bank staff agreeing to work all day Christmas Eve without compensation
is like turkeys voting for Christmas,’ said Howell. The Bifu team, who
would not say whether they had received compensation themselves, worked
every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Even then, Howell kept
his mobile switched on. ’Fortunately, I wasn’t contacted,’ he said.