Zoe Williams has been going into branches of RBS and asking staff to comment on the directors’ bonuses. She can’t understand why they are so reluctant to respond:
All I wanted was the view from the ground in RBS: did the people working in the branches feel besmirched by Fred Goodwin‘s fall from grace, from the removal of his knighthood? How was morale, did customers seem to mind, did their friends and family make salty remarks? Or was it all unperturbed, Goodwin’s ignominy as distant a speck on the horizon as his salary was to the middle of the pay spine?
In a branch of RBS in south London, a teller told me: “We can’t comment, unfortunately.” “Have you been explicitly told not to comment, or are you just constitutionally unable to comment?” “We can’t comment,” she repeated, giving me a look that said “which bit of this don’t you understand?” I just wish she’d said it out loud, then I could have said: none of it. I don’t understand any of it.
Really? Can she possibly be so unaware of the constraints under which most people work?
Companies have always taken a dim view of employees talking to the media. Nowadays, though, when a random ill-judged comment can be repeated thousands of times on Twitter, blogs and YouTube, someone who was unknown yesterday can be famous by tomorrow. An anonymous comment to that nice lady from the Guardian could land you in all sorts of trouble…….
The Guardian, Saturday, 4 February
Bank staff rage against top bosses’ pay
Staff in a central Birmingham branch of Royal Caledonian Bank expressed anger at the pay packages awarded to Chief Executive Simon Jester and his board. Jester, who has introduced a programme of drastic cost cutting and headcount reductions, is in line to receive salary and bonus payments of several million pounds. “We didn’t cause the crisis,” said one supervisor, “but we’ve been on the receiving end of the public anger. My staff have been abused and spat at. And what do we get? Pay freezes and job cuts while Jester and the board earn millions. It’s obscene!”
Telegraph, Sunday, 5 February
Bank bosses furious at criticism of bonuses
Senior executives at the state-owned Royal Caledonian Bank are reported to be outraged at comments made to the Guardian by branch staff in Birmingham, criticising the pay of CEO Simon Jester. RCB insiders said that Jester was ‘incandescent with rage’ after an employee publicly branded his remuneration package as ‘obscene’. An internal investigation has been launched. A source at RCB told us that it would not take long to find the culprit, as the Guardian journalist is well-known and all bank branches have CCTV.
The Independent, Monday, 6 February
RCB employee suspended after attack on bosses’ pay
Royal Caledonian Bank confirmed today that a 35 year-old branch employee from Birmingham has been suspended after an internal investigation.
The Daily Mail, Tuesday, 6 February
Bank whistleblower speaks for Britain’s squeezed middle
We traced Royal Caledonian Bank whistleblower Tanya Thompson to her neat former council house in a northern suburb of Birmingham. Tanya, who greeted us wearing a navy blue suit from last season’s M&S collection and black kitten-heeled court shoes, showed us into the immaculately tidy sitting room of her three-bedroom house. She explained her outrage at fat-cat bosses:
“Bank staff in the branches have borne the brunt of all this. We had no more idea than anyone else that the bank was going to crash. Many of us lost our savings after managers encouraged us to buy shares which are now worthless. Our pensions are ruined and our salaries are frozen. It’s OK for Simon Jester and the rest of them, safe at head office. We are the ones who have to deal with the public anger. They think we all get huge bonuses. I’m on £25k. The more the senior executives pay themselves, the angrier people get and we are the ones who get it in the neck. The pay these people get is disgusting. It’s immoral!”
In many ways, the Thompsons epitomise the squeezed middle. Their house stands out among others on an increasingly run down ex-council estate. After the financial crash, job losses led to repossessions and house prices in the area plummeted. The character of the area began to change. Immigrants moved in and crime rose. Trapped in negative equity, Tanya and her family are caught between cost-cutting fat-cat bosses on one side and the estate’s marauding yobs on the other….
The Sun, Wednesday, 7 February
Torrid Tanya’s sex-drive wore me out, says ex-lover.
Tanya Thompson, the RCB worker who branded fat-cat boss Simon Jester’s bonus immoral, wasn’t always so upstanding, said her ex-boyfriend Keith Jones.
“She was into some really kinky stuff,” said Keith. “Leather, bondage, school uniforms, the lot. I thought she was a bit uptight but when I got to know her I soon found out there was nothing she wouldn’t do. She was always thinking up new sex games and used to drag me into Ann Summers to buy new gear and toys. I’d be exhausted but she’d just keep demanding more and more sex.”
The Mirror, Thursday, 8 February
Secret Nazi past of Torrid Tanya’s ex
The ex-boyfirend of RCB whistleblower Tanya Thompson, who sold his story to the Sun this week, has been outed as a member of the English Defence League. A friend of the couple told Mirror how Keith Jones was an organiser for the EDL who often attended violent street demonstrations and led an attack on a local mosque. Jones is known to the police, has a reputation for violence and in 2009 was convicted of assault. “He totally terrorised Tanya,” said the friend. “He hit her and forced her to take part in his sick Nazi sex fantasies.”
The Star, Friday, 9 February
Exclusive: Details of Keith and Tanya’s sordid sex life
Amazing tales of kinky sex sessions and pictures of their pervy ‘fancy-dress’ parties.
Daily Mail, Saturday, 10 February
RCB whistleblower could be victim of anti-Christian prejudice.
Brave Tanya Thompson who criticised the excessive pay of Royal Caledonian Bank boss Simon Jester may have been victimised at work for being a Christian. Tanya, who found God after ending her relationship with far-right thug, Keith Jones, was often the butt of jokes from jealous staff. One former colleague told the Mail that the snide remarks about Tanya’s faith got worse after she was promoted. Churchgoing Tanya was labelled a ‘God botherer’ and ‘Bible thumper’ by co-workers and, according to one close friend, even her boss made jokes about her religion. A spokesman for Christian Legal Support said that Christophobia is a growing problem in Britain’s workplaces and confirmed that they had contacted Mrs Thompson about taking up her case.
The Observer, Sunday 11 February
Bank employee in hiding after criticising chief exec’s salary
Tanya Thompson, the Royal Caledonian Bank employee who described, CEO Simon Jester’s pay as obscene, was reported to be in hiding last night after details of her private life were published in tabloid newspapers. Both her children were removed from school last week after being taunted by bullies about the allegations made by their mother’s ex-boyfriend. A family friend said that Ms Thompson was distraught after her house was besieged by reporters. RCB confirmed last night that disciplinary proceedings against Ms Thompson were going ahead.
Okaaay, perhaps this is the product of an over-active (and possibly somewhat paranoid) imagination. But people who have never sought publicity often find themselves the subjects of a media storm. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even just the relative of a murder victim, is enough to have the press crawling all over your private life. Is it any wonder, then, that people are wary about talking to the press?
If you say something to a journalist, the journalist will publish it, even if, as with the RBS staff who spoke to Zoe Williams, it’s just a desperate plea to be left in peace to get on with your job. And, as soon as you stick your head above the parapet, you become fair game. Your employer can sack you and newspapers can start digging up your past.
“I don’t understand any of it,” says Zoe. Well I can understand why the RBS staff don’t want to talk to her. What I don’t understand is why she doesn’t.