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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Northern Rock staff 'threatened'
Queue at Northern Rock
Northern Rock staff have had to deal with long queues at branches
Staff at troubled bank Northern Rock have been threatened with violence from frustrated customers, a union has said.

The Unite union says that in one incident police had to be called after the manager at the Cheltenham branch was barricaded in her office.

Frank Needham, a full-time officer with Unite, said there was concern among staff over their jobs and pensions.

The bank, which applied to the Bank of England for emergency funds, has played down talk of compulsory redundancies.

Queues and abuse

Queues of customers have formed at branches across the country as about 2bn has been withdrawn since Northern Rock went to the Bank on Thursday.

Mr Needham said: "Obviously there is concern, among those in branches in particular, because of the queues and abuse that they are getting, plus the fact that they're having to work extra hours.

What customers tend to forget is that staff are stakeholders too
Frank Needham

"There have been threats of physical violence and certainly the branch manager at Cheltenham, I understand, had to be helped by police because she was barricaded in her office.

"Staff are having to come into branches which are opening at eight, they're staying open until six, sometimes longer, and the queues are just so long.

"There's a general requirement to work overtime when necessary. It's usually a couple of hours a week but obviously these are exceptional circumstances.

"The situation is having an impact on staff. I think it's the uncertainty that's getting people concerned."

Jobs and pensions

The union said it had been given assurances from the company that there would be no compulsory redundancies.

Northern Rock chief executive Adam Applegarth has said job reductions are likely to be achieved through a recruitment freeze and natural staff turnover.

Mr Needham said: "Nobody really knows where it's going next. They said on Friday that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of what's happening at the moment.

"What we want is a commitment that that will remain in place if there is a takeover. We would not expect there to be compulsory redundancies if there is a takeover.

"The main concern is we really don't know what what's going to happen next.

"What customers tend to forget is that staff are stakeholders too and have got their jobs and pensions tied in with this."

'Call of duty'

A Northern Rock spokeswoman said: "There are no compulsory redundancies planned. Current jobs are safe.

"We think our staff have responded magnificently to a difficult situation and have exceeded the call of duty.

"Of course, we are taking all steps possible to ensure their welfare."

Northern Rock has struggled to raise money to finance its lending ever since money markets seized up over the summer.

It raises most of the money which it provides for mortgages by borrowing from banks and other financial institutions.

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