Strikes at UK financial regulator due to start this week

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Unionized staff at the Financial Conduct Authority will stage the first strike in the nine-year history of Britain’s top financial regulator this week over a dispute over pay and working conditions.

Staff will go on strike on Wednesday and Thursday after a long battle with management over restructuring plans which Unite said would amount to pay cuts for many workers.

The industrial action is the first in a series, with further strikes scheduled for June and July, although fewer than 300 of the watchdog’s 4,000 workers are expected to take part this week.

Unite revealed last month that it had 640 FCA members and 75% of those who took part in a strike backed by a ballot.

A person close to the regulator said they did not expect the strike to cause disruption.

The disagreement between unionized staff and the FCA centers on a transformation plan proposed by Nikhil Rathi, the chief executive, to make the watchdog more effective and efficient following several scandals.

The most controversial element of the plans is a change to annual bonuses which were awarded to between 70 and 90% of staff before the pandemic. The FCA proposes to give a bonus this year only to the top 25% of employees.

Unite said FCA’s plan amounted to a pay cut for many employees. In an update in April, Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said that “the proposed changes to staff pay and conditions are completely unacceptable. FCA management must now address the serious concerns of its employees.

The FCA said its job offer is “highly competitive, offering fair and competitive compensation at all levels”.

In a statement released last month, the FCA said most employees would receive an average increase of 7% to their base pay in 2022 and more than 12% over the next two years. There would be an additional one-time cash payment paid out this month worth 4% of base salary.

In December, Rathi told the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee that the FCA should spend its money carefully and that bonuses should be used as a way to “motivate and incentivize talent”.

Unite has also clashed with the FCA over the regulator’s refusal to recognize it.

Rathi said Unite would have to go through a statutory process in order to gain recognition, which would allow staff from various groups to be represented by a union if there was majority support within it.

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