pounds 5m pay-off at BZW boosts support for strike at Barclays

Support for today's 24-hour strike at Barclays Bank has grown dramatically since news of a rumoured pounds 5m pay-off to Bill Harrison, departing chief executive of BZW, union leaders claimed yesterday. Thousands of staff at the bank are due to stage the stoppage in protest at a performance- related pay scheme which they argue will freeze the salaries of 25,000 employees. Union officials warned that the walkout - to be followed by another day-long stoppage on Monday - would close branches all over the country.

Officers of both the Banking Insurance and Finance Union and Barclays staff union UNiFI, which together claim a membership of 40,000, believe that some employees may choose to go sick instead of being seen to join the strike. This was a tactic employed by hundreds of cabin crew in a recent strike at British Airways. Management last night declared its confidence that most of its 2,000 branches would remain open, although the bank conceded that there would be an impact in some areas.

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