Bank of England Faces Staff Strike Over Inflation-Lagging Pay Rises

  • Union says central bank is ‘arrogant and out of touch’ on pay
  • Staff in maintenance, reception and facilities vote on strike

The Bank of England is facing a strike because of weaker-than-inflation pay rises and has been described as “arrogant” by a union representing some staff.

Unite, Britain’s biggest labor union, said its members at the BOE -- including workers in maintenance, reception and facilities departments -- are beginning to vote on Thursday on whether to hold industrial action. Staff can earn as little as 20,000 pounds ($25,748) a year, and insufficient pay increases mean they’re “facing financial hardship,” the union said in a statement.

The union called the latest pay settlement “derisory” and said the bank is “out of touch.” The BOE declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg.

“It is a source of shame that an iconic symbol of financial services in the U.K. is choosing to ride roughshod over the concerns of its dedicated and hardworking staff,” said Mercedes Sanchez, a Unite regional officer. The BOE “should be setting the highest standards within the financial services industry, not treating its workforce with contempt and forcing them to take a real-terms pay cut.”

Pay and staff morale have long been issues at the BOE. Governor Mark Carney brought in consultants McKinsey shortly after he joined the institution to help with a revamp, which included a review of pay structures.

The latest pay dilemma reflects the wider challenges in BOE policy, as sluggish wages fail to keep pace with accelerating inflation. The central bank said in its latest projections that it expects wage growth to eventually pick up, though Carney warned of a “challenging time for households” in the shorter term. Economists see inflation reaching almost 3 percent in the second half of this year.

The ballot will close on June 21. A consultation of Unite members earlier this year saw over 70 percent of members support a formal industrial ballot. The union said it’s “prepared to talk and to reach a fair settlement.”

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