Financial Conduct Authority staff in strike vote

Strike fears at the Financial Conduct Authority as staff start formal strike ballot

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Employees working across the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have today (March 15) served notice to begin a ballot on taking industrial action against cuts to their pay and conditions.

Unite, the union representing staff at FCA, has today sent legal notification to the regulator of the industrial action ballot to commence in seven days. The union is balloting the workforce because damaging proposals by the regulator will have the effect of driving down performance and threatening the financial watchdog’s operations at a time when it is already struggling due to a staff exodus.

The FCA’s CEO Nikhil Rathi has refused all attempts by the union to negotiate on the cuts. The CEO has rebuffed challenges from the FCA’s internal staff association and ignored an 87 per cent vote for industrial action in an indicative ballot by Unite in January. Despite the efforts of the staff, he is continuing to refuse to engage with the mediation service ACAS to resolve the dispute. Despite the pay proposals announced last week the workforce has been expressing to their union their anger about the proposals and the manner of the consultation.

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary said, “Our members at the Financial Conduct Authority are rightly angry. For too long their CEO Nikhil Rathi has chosen to ignore their concerns while pocketing about half a million pounds a year of public money. Now it seems he would rather cut the pay of hard-working frontline staff than make necessary structural reforms.

“It is also extremely worrying that the regulator is ignoring employees’ concerns about the gender and ethnicity equality implications of their appraisal proposals,” she added.

“Staff are already leaving in large numbers because of treatment by management. Now management are pushing them into industrial action. If it comes to a strike Unite will back them all the way.”

Unite has for months reiterated the key concerns of staff which include:

· A punishing package of pay cuts, including the loss of routine payments misleadingly labelled ‘bonuses’ (worth an average of 10-12% of salary), the narrowing of pay bands, and discriminatory pay bands for staff in Scotland. While pay bands for most staff are being ruthlessly squeezed, those for senior managers are being uprated.

· The FCA is offering a rise in basic pay of 5%. As inflation is 5.5% and rising, this means a real-terms pay cut. This is difficult for ordinary employees to accept at a time when the FCA has around 40 executives who earn more than the Prime Minister. The FCA has told everyone who is willing to listen that 800 low-paid employees are getting a long overdue pay rise – but there are suspicions that this figure is inflated, and the FCA has not explained how it arrived at it.

· An unfair appraisal system which requires managers to arbitrarily downgrade employees who are performing well.

· A future round of pension cuts, the details of which are being withheld by management.

Some staff within the FCA have already voted with their feet by quitting. The FCA has persisting problems with staff leaving and difficulties in recruiting replacements. Management have been making carefully worded statements to downplay the size of the exodus but they have failed to release a full set of figures to allow the truth to be known, despite a Freedom of Information request. Some research has found that 56% of remaining staff are currently considering leaving the regulator.

The ballot will open in seven days on Tuesday, March 22 and will close Tuesday, April 12.

By Saba Edwards

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