In a report published on the 29th December, the Resolution Foundation, a well-respected think-tank focused on improving the living standards for those on low to middle incomes, said that 2022 would be the “year of the squeeze” on people’s finances. In its quarterly Labour Market Outlook, it said that the UK faces a “cost of living catastrophe” in April with tax rises and energy bill set to rise dramatically.

The Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation is now at 7.1%, the highest it’s been since November 1990. And it’s likely to get higher over the next few months. The two in-house staff unions originally claimed RPI+2% (9.1%) but can’t bring themselves to reject the bank’s final pay pot of 3%. All their members are going to be worse off but they’re too scared to reject the offer outright because the bank will withhold its financial support. The two unions can’t function without that support.

The staff reaction to the bank’s 3% pay pot was one of incredulity. How could an organisation that made £5.5 billion profits in the 9 months to September give average pay increases of just 3% when the cost of living is rising at its fastest pace in a generation? It’s a real terms pay cut and no amount of spinning by Matt Sinnott, Group People and Property Director, is going to change that fact. The bank happily referred to the level of inflation when justifying its pay offer last year but there was no mention of inflation this year. That’s what staff resent the most – the bank always trying to have its cake and eat it.

In responding to criticism of the bank’s pay offer, Matt Sinnott said: “When I described the offer as the biggest since Lloyds Banking Group came together, it is based on putting £100 million into the offer including flex, pension contributions….”. The two staff unions have used the same wording in their communications to members. But £100 million is a drop in the ocean for a bank that’s making so much money. Equally, as we’ve said before the bank shouldn’t get any credit because it’s underpaid staff in the past. Let’s also not forget that the new Group Chief Executive pocketed a £1 million group bonus award when he voluntarily joined the bank: a bonus award which nobody else in the bank got.

Let’s Ballot Now

Staff know why the two HR financed unions are delaying their pay ballots until the end of February. First, they are hoping staff anger at the bank’s tightfistedness will have dissipated by then. Second, the bank is going to announce bumper bonuses in February, which we’ve talked about in previous Newsletters. The hope is that staff will focus on bonuses and forget about basic pay. Third, and most importantly, they know most of their members will reject the bank’s pay offer if the ballots were held now and that would require them to do something. Neither union can comprehend a world in which they have to take some action against the bank.

All the unions should commit to carry out ballots of their members now to put the maximum amount of pressure on the bank. We can do that but are the other two unions prepared to make the same commitment? A pay ballot at the end of February, when the new Group Chief Executive is set to unveil his new strategy, is a complete waste of time. If the two in-house staff unions refuse to ballot their members now, then we’ll know they are not interested in pay and care more about their cosy relationship with the bank.

In the meantime, members with any questions can contact the Union’s Bedford Office on 01234 262868 (Choose Option 1).

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