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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

High finance, low pay

by New Worker correspondent

A GROUP of workers not noted in the annals of labour militancy are those at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) who are coming to life industrially. On Monday staff belonging to Unite (which includes the former Banking, Insurance and Finance Union) began balloting for action to oppose what the union calls “a programme of severe cost-cutting, which is set to turn the FCA into a bargain basement regulator”. This includes pay cuts and a new appraisal system “which punishes strong performers”.

The FCA employs 4,000 people to oversee 50,000 companies, it presently has 500 vacancies.

Nikhil Rathi, the new FCA CEO recently said in an interview with the Times that cutting pay would improve the performance of staff. He wants to replace cash bonuses, which normally add 10–12 per cent to the salary of 80 per cent of its staff, with a system of five grades.

This he justified on the grounds that he needed to reduce ethnic and gender pay imbalances, which he said amounted to 25 and 28 per cent respectively. He claimed that the lowest paid staff in call centres would see their salaries rise from £23,000 to £28,000. Unite suspects this rise is an effort of split the workforce.

To launch the ballot, Unite national officer Dominic Hook said: “Unite members will today start voting in an indicative ballot for industrial action at the Financial Conduct Authority. The ballot will deliver a clear sense just how dire workforce morale and employee confidence is within the FCA leadership.

“Management at the FCA are attempting to implement a program 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.”

He also made the blindingly obvious point that: “You cannot regulate the British financial system on a bargain basement basis as the CEO, Nikhil Rathi, clearly wishes to do.” True enough, the FCA employs a lot of high-powered City lawyers on the grounds that it takes a crook to catch a crook.

At the same time Unite is fighting a recognition battle at the FCA, which presently has a management-run staff association. Unite claims that consultation on the proposed changes was botched and the angry workforce are flocking to it. Even the in-house association has complained about how the matter has been dealt with.

Unite denies the “bonuses” are bonuses and have long been effectively basic pay. Rathi wants to impose an unfair appraisal system whereby managers have to arbitrarily downgrade a certain number of their employees even if they are doing well. In addition, non-London staff will be put on new, lower pay scales, making a mockery of the Government’s “levelling-up” policies. Staff pension cuts are also in the pipeline.