Monday 9 April 2012

A man of Importance

In 1992 and I was a 'yellow packer.' This was the phrase used to describe the new enployees of the bank who were recruited on a smaller wage and with no chance of promotion. The 'yellow packs' were the cheap home brand used by a well known supermarket. However in the early 1990's Ireland was coming out of a recession and jobs were scarce.

When I joined the bank the whole ethos was about Quality Service to customers. I was told if you treat a customer well, they will tell others about the company and word-of-mouth was the best way to build a solid customer base.

The first time I met the Important Banker I was picketing my Bank branch. Being only nineteen, I was terrified. How would I pay the rent? What would my parents think? When would the strike end? My Branch Manager was an extraordinarily kind man. When the news broke he came over to my desk and comforted me,as he saw my panic-striken face.

The locals were very supportive, bringing us soup and sandwiches and moral support. However after a couple of days the Important Banker came to visit us on the picket line. He was red-faced with indignation and asked us sharply: "What did we think we were doing? Did we expect this strike would achieve anything? How did we think it would affect our careers?" He then listed off names of people in branches surrounding us that had gone back to work, crossing the picket line. By the time he left us I was trembling.

After three weeks a deal was reached between the Union and the Bank. We went back to work but the ethos had changed. Our new contracts stipulated that we must reach targets selling certain types of accounts or policies. Trying to sell at the counter or cold-calling people was torture.

After a couple of years I applied for relief staff. This entailed being sent to various branches or departments and filling in when places were short staffed. I was happy as the proverbial pig and loved this work.

On one occasion I was sent to type in Head Office. The Important Banker had retired a couple of weeks beforehand. However I noticed that he appeared in the office most mornings of that week. All I could picture was his indignant, red face when I looked at him. He, of course, did not remember me.

The Retired Banker would sort through files or rearrange folders, mumbling to himself as he did so. Then on my final morning one of The Top Man in the Bank turned the corner and when he saw the Retired Banker, kneeling on the ground with a folder in his hands, he threw his eyes up to heaven and did a u-turn out of the room. He was no longer important.

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