Barclays ballot threatens new strike

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The Independent Online
Efforts by Barclays to overhaul staff pay structures face a severe test from today when almost 40,000 employees are balloted by unions on strike action.

The bank's staff union, Unifi, and the banking union, Bifu, claim the changes will leave half the 50,000 employees affected with no annual salary increase. The bank planned to introduce annual bonuses based on performance targets, while unions said staff would ultimately lose Christmas bonuses worth 2.5 per cent of salary. If the employees vote for strikes it will increase the possibility of a summer of union disruption from public and private sector workers. British Airways cabin crews appear set for a three-day stoppage from Wednesday after talks between management and unions collapsed yesterday.

Last month Unifi, which represents two-thirds of Barclays' staff, held a consultative ballot on the proposals which showed nearly 9 out of 10 employees opposed the changes.

Today's ballots, which will continue until 24 June, will ask staff whether they want to stage a series of two or three-day strikes and an overtime ban.

If the vote goes in favour of the unions the strikes could start in early August. Bifu predicted the disruption would be more damaging for the bank than the series of one-day strikes over pay in 1995.

Jim Lowe, Bifu's assistant secretary, said the proposals were threatening thousands of staff with a pay standstill. "They've offered a two to three year transition period as a concession but this is no pot of gold. A cashier could lose pounds 10,000 over 10 years."

Barclays, which made profits last year of pounds 2.4bn, has claimed the new pay structure will reward good performance. But according to unions 25,000 staff could see annual increases based solely on performance bonuses. Once staff members reach a pay ceiling, Bifu claims, they will be excluded from the annual pay round.

"One of the long term effects of this policy will be to drastically cut pensions, which are linked to salary," said Mr Lowe.