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In an e-mail to 800 Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) employees, a staff member of staffing agency Hays disclosed day rates for 3,000 contractors, some of whom were paid 2,000 Pounds per day, the Financial Times reports.
The release of the data is an embarrassment for the state-backed bank, which has been shedding thousands of permanent staff as it seeks to cut costs and streamline the business. RBS has been criticised for the high wages it offers many of its top employees as it is 83% owned by the British taxpayer.
Hays, which has launched an investigation into the episode, apologised for the blunder but emphasised that the data did not include any bank account details or national insurance numbers.
It said it had managed to recall about half of the e-mails before they were opened.
The company told the Financial Times "Hays recognises that the correct treatment of data is of the utmost importance and we are taking the unauthorised release of this data extremely seriously."
The bank will review its relationship with Hays over the coming days, sources suggested.
RBS commented "we are extremely disappointed that confidential personnel data has been shared by one of our suppliers. This is unacceptable and we are taking action to address this issue. No customer information has been compromised."
The temporary workers were involved in specialised areas such as the integration of ABN Amro, the Dutch bank RBS bought in 2008, and the winding down of unwanted assets.
Unions reacted with anger to the high pay rates received by RBS contractors. David Fleming, Unite National Officer, said "it is wholly inappropriate that RBS, backed by taxpayers, appears to be throwing money at thousands of contractors. Unite the union has serious concerns about the widespread use of highly paid staff on short-term contracts at a time when RBS continues to cut large numbers of staff."