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Staff at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) could go on strike over new pay conditions being imposed by management, according to unions.
Unite the Union is balloting members at the financial watchdog, claiming the organisation is turning into a “bargain basement” regulator.
Members will start voting whether to take industrial action, with the ballot closing at the end of the month.
The union said the FCA’s proposed changes will leave staff out of pocket, with cuts of between 10% and 12% as a result of performance bonuses being scrapped.
The FCA is pushing ahead with changes to pay, which bosses insist will increase wages for the lowest paid staff.
Staff turnover has increased as a result and led to significant growth in trade union membership, Unite said.
Although chief executive Nikhil Rathi told MPs at the Treasury Committee: “We do not see attrition in our organisation at levels elevated to what they were typically before the pandemic.”
Official recognition was requested and denied by the FCA, with Mr Rathi claiming the concerns raised was “noise” and the changes would actually improve staff performance.
He said last month the FCA spent £492,000 on communication consultants over the changes, adding: “We need change skills in the organisation for the scale of change that we are undertaking.
“We are drawing on that as proportionately and sensibly as we can. We are an organisation that has achieved a huge amount.
“In order to get to the operational integrity that we need, we are going through a period of deep, wide-ranging change. This will be challenging.
“You will hear noise out of the organisation for a number of months to come, because we are also being more rigorous, self-aware and self-critical about our performance, which is a challenging cultural journey for us to go through.”
Dominic Hook, Unite national officer said: “Management at the FCA are attempting to implement a programme of pay cuts, which has come after two years in which the staff at the FCA have worked gruelling hours to provide financial protection against Covid for borrowers, investors, small businesses and people with mortgages.
“Unite has made it clear that if introduced these cuts will make it even less likely that the FCA will be able to deliver this high standard of public service in the future.
“Experienced employees have been quitting the regulator in droves. More are expected to follow, as in a recent Unite survey 89.8% of staff described their morale as ‘low’ or ‘very low’.
“You cannot regulate the British financial system on a bargain basement basis as the CEO, Nikhil Rathi clearly wishes to do.
“Management must enter into immediate negotiations with Unite the union in order to avoid further damage and risk to the FCA.”
The union is also currently challenging the FCA on its refusal to allow staff to have representation by an independent trade union.
A spokesperson for the FCA said: “Our pay and reward proposals would ensure the FCA continues to provide one of the best employment packages of any regulator or enforcement agency in the UK.
“Our proposals focus on those paid the least, with 800 colleagues below manager-level in line for salary increases of, on average, £3,800.
“We are now carefully considering the feedback received during our extensive consultation with colleagues with the aim of announcing the outcome by March.”