the bank and its vegetables

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    Bank’s veg row grows
    IAIN WILSON, Chief Reporter August 16 2005

    A BANK which humiliated a teenage teller by placing a cabbage on his desk as a motivational tool is embroiled in another vegetable row.

    A Bank of Scotland manager at a different branch adopted a similar tactic, but this time used a cauliflower.

    One elderly customer was so upset to see the vegetable placed prominently on the desk of a female clerk she offered to take out more insurance to boost the teller's sales so that it would be removed.

    The bank last night issued its second unreserved apology to staff within five days over being forced to take part in the so-called "cabbage game".

    The first apology was to Darren Murray, 18, from a branch in Great Western Road, Glasgow. It followed protests by the boy's father and Amicus, the banking union, which said it was "obscene" management had resorted to "medieval tactics to squeeze every last penny out of vulnerable staff". The cabbage was supposed to remain on his desk until it could be passed to a colleague with a poorer performance.

    At the time, the bank admitted that using a cabbage was unacceptable but insisted it was "very much an isolated incident". However, it has now emerged at least one more manager has adopted the carrot-and-stick approach to further staff performance. As Darren Murray sat with his cabbage, up to eight staff at a branch in Paisley, Renfrewshire, were drawing straws for the cauliflower.

    The shortest was drawn by Julie Ferguson, a business studies graduate, who was told she could pass on the cauliflower to a colleague only after getting someone to open an account or take a credit card.

    Miss Ferguson, 24, refused to comment yesterday, but her mother, Jean, said: "I am really angry.

    "My daughter was humiliated for no other reason than drawing a short straw." She added: "It is appalling. All Julie wants is to build her career, and she should not be subjected to this kind of treatment. Customers were also embarrassed. Banks are not playgrounds, and should not be allowed to steamroller over their staff." A close friend of Miss Ferguson added: "She was mortified, especially by the end of the day when the cauliflower was rotting. There were flies around it.

    "Some customers took pity, and offered to take it away."

    John Nolan, Amicus national officer at HBOS, formed from the merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland, said: "We are extremely concerned the unacceptable event of the cabbage is not an isolated incident."

    He added: "We will be meeting the company over these revelations. We expect a statement of intent on dealing with this, and strong evidence it will be rectified." The union wants a company-wide investigation into claims bullying and intimidation are rife over meeting sales targets.

    Mandy Telford, head of the Dignity at Work project whose partners include BT and Royal Mail, said: "Using a vegetable is a particularly horrific and nasty form of bullying in the workplace."

    Pressure to deliver profits is increasing, according to Amicus, with "motivational" schemes across the financial sector ranging from wearing donkey ears to naming and shaming poor performers.

    A Bank of Scotland spokesman said: "We encourage our managers to deliver strong customer services and sales performance. We very much regret we got it wrong this time and have apologised to the staff concerned. We have taken steps to remind all our managers of the responsibility they have to their colleagues."
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