Employee relations at the ECB slated as 'primitive'

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The Independent Online

Most Bank of England staff are unhappy with their working conditions due to changes in the way the bank has been run over the last year, according to a report published today.

Some 65 per cent of employees at the Bank of England complained about the reduction in certain perks such as free dental care and subsidised mortgages under a new employment regime introduced over the past 12 months.

The report, written by the Open University Business School, also found widespread discontent at other countries' central banks and said employment relations at the European Central Bank, which is headed by the president Wim Duisenberg, were "primitive".

John Storey, Professor of Strategic Human Resources Management, said: "Managers at the ECB have treated it as an American start-up with a free-market approach to the labour market. It is a non-regulated system with very little effective relations with staff."

The ECB, which is based in Frankfurt, employs 1,000 staff. It is not subject to Europe's stringent labour laws. The Open University report says the bank, which is governed by the Maastricht Treaty, is also independent of national governments and so only lightly regulated.

Mr Storey, who spent eight months researching central banks for the European trades union federation UNI-Europa, said the pattern has permeated throughout Europe to national banks. "People have caught the mood of Frankfurt, which is to shake up sleepy, paternalistic approaches."

The report, titled Developments in the European System of Central Banks, found that Bank of England staff had low morale because the new employment contract has been imposed over the past year rather than negotiated with employees.

Dissatisfaction was highest at the Bank of France, where 94 per cent of workers said conditions had worsened recently. A major source of discontent was expected changes to the euro.

The highest level of satisfaction was at Sweden's central bank, where staff said relations between management, unions and themselves worked well.