Shadow chancellor John McDonnell with Bank of England strikers, 1.8.17, photo Judy Beishon

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell with Bank of England strikers, 1.8.17, photo Judy Beishon   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Union victory at the Bank of England

Unite The Union members employed at the Bank of England have won a historic victory following a campaign which included strike action being taken for the first time ever at the prestigious Threadneedle Street site in Central London.

Union members including staff working in security, reception and maintenance as well as legal and financial services voted to take strike action after the employer decided to scrap collective bargaining. Instead, the bank would decide on the amount of any percentage increase but would generously allow negotiation on how the increase was to be distributed.

In reality, even this act of generosity was a sham. The bank uses an internal performance process, overseen by managers, to decide if individual workers are deserving of a pay rise. The result was that the bank imposed a 1% pay increase which was not even payable to all across the board as a result.

This was never a dispute about highly paid bankers! They of course continue to be paid generously despite their performance in bringing the financial system to its knees causing the last crash. Instead, this was about workers at the bottom end. Low paid workers in the finance sector have been hit hard as a result of job losses.

Unfortunately the role of the trade unions in the sector has been largely to manage the decline, with no confidence in the ability and willingness of members to fight. This makes this union victory all the more important. The campaign gained international media coverage – but the win came because of the three days of strike action.

Following negotiations at ACAS, the employer agreed to reinstate collective bargaining, award an increase in annual leave this year and agreed to begin pay negotiations in a few weeks time with an opening position agreeing to increase the pay of the lowest paid. This gives the union an excellent foundation on which to build at the bank.

The campaign did not hesitate to point to the hypocrisy of public statements made by the bank about families facing a tough financial squeeze – while at the same time squeezing their own workers so hard. No such financial squeeze is felt by the governor of the bank, Mark Carney – in addition to his salary, he receives a taxable rent allowance of £4,800 a week! Incredibly, his wife said she was finding it difficult to find somewhere to live on this meagre allowance!

The strike and the win must be used as an example to workers and the trade unions who organise in the finance sector – militancy wins!

By a Unite member

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 September 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.