Santander blasted for misjudgement in otherwise well-intended Covid response

Telecoms & Financial Services, Santander

Wednesday 13th January 2021

The CWU has expressed its  disappointment at Santander’s decision to throw its weight behind a flagrantly self-seeking publicity campaign orchestrated by The Sun – a move that has understandably generated particular fury and distress at the bank’s massive Bootle site.

Ever since the tabloid’s disgraceful misreporting of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 – printing inexcusable lies about Liverpool supporters in the wake of the tragedy that left 96 fans dead – the paper has been subject to a boycott on Merseyside that remains solid  three decades on.

So when Santander staff were updated yesterday (Tuesday) on a wide range of positive initiatives the Bank is taking to keep staff safe and aid the rollout of the vaccine nationally, members were aghast to read: “Hot off the press, we’ve just signed up to support the Sun’s ‘Jabs Army vaccine campaign, which is calling for community volunteers to join the over 50,000 people needed to assist the rollout of millions of vaccines.”

The irony was that even before The Sun launched its campaign on New Year’s Eve, Santander was in the forefront of companies that have been actively supporting staff involvement in the NHS Volunteer Responder Programme to which The Sun is simply directing volunteers – effectively only acting as a self-appointed ‘front’ to the initiative.

Moreover, the Bank’s support for members of its workforce participating in the St John Ambulance charity initiative to deliver more than 30,000 volunteer vaccinations was also already on record – meaning that Santander had already gone much  further than most of the other organisations that have subsequently jumped on the  ‘Jabs Army’ bandwagon

Sally Bridge

Even before yesterday’s communication was issued to employees the CWU – which is given prior sight of such messaging – had spotted just how inflammatory the reference would be.

CWU national officer for Santander, Sally Bridge, explains: “The reaction of employees we are now witnessing vindicates everything the CWU did to try to secure a management rethink.

“The Bank has clearly made a huge mistake in associating themselves with The Sun newspaper and then communicating this to their employees. It was insensitive, crass and thoughtless at the very least, and has been insulting and hurtful to many – especially to employees on Merseyside who lost friends and relatives in the Hillsborough tragedy.

“CWU condemns any association or reference with the Sun newspaper. This has been a serious and utterly avoidable error of judgement which has sadly served to temporarily obscure Santander’s overwhelmingly positive actions throughout the pandemic.

“These have included industry leading efforts to maximise employee safety, the Bank’s commitment from the very outset not to take any money from the Government’s furlough scheme as well as a massive stepping up of its community work – more than doubling the amount of hours it is allowing employees to contribute to the NHS and St John Ambulance programmes.

“Despite the insensitivity of yesterday’s communication it’s important to place on record the CWU’s total support for the company’s generous commitment to  the NHS  volunteering programme as this is about the NHS and it has nothing to do with The Sun. The intention was good, and remains so, despite the thoughtlessness of the wording. It’s also important to note that the Bank has apologised for any upset caused.”