Financial Conduct Authority staff vote for industrial action

Members of the Unite union have voted overwhelmingly to strike over new pay conditions at the financial watchdog.

12 April 2022

Staff at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over proposed changes to pay conditions.

Unite the Union said a ballot of its members working for the financial watchdog found more than 75% were in favour of taking industrial action, with 89.8% voting to support industrial action short of going on strike.

Members have raised concerns for several months over changes being imposed by bosses at the organisation, including the scrapping of performance-related bonuses.

Nikhil Rathi, the chief executive of the FCA, has faced criticism from unions over plans to overhaul pay at the agency (FCA/PA)

It is the first time staff at the organisation responsible for overseeing the financial industry have voted to strike, Unite added.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary said: “For the first time ever, the employees at the Financial Conduct Authority have voted for industrial action.

“They have made it very clear that the proposed changes to staff pay and conditions are completely unacceptable.

“The FCA management must now address the serious concerns of their employees.”

Unite attempted to hold discussions with the FCA and called for formal union recognition, in line with recognition by the Bank of England and the Pensions regulator, but the FCA declined.

Alan Scott, Unite officer said: “FCA staff have not taken the decision to vote for industrial action lightly.

“Unite has made it clear that the pay cuts and unfair appraisals are extremely detrimental to thousands of staff and it is time for the FCA to rethink these plans.

“The continued refusal to recognise an independent trade union further damages the standing of the organisation.

“The management could still avoid the reputational and business damage caused by strike action by meeting with Unite to resolve the dispute.”

Unite has now contacted mediation service Acas to try and resolve the dispute and will start planning next steps for industrial action.

An FCA spokeswoman said: “Our new employment package is highly competitive, providing fair, competitive pay at all levels and rewards strong, consistent performance.

“Most colleagues are receiving an average 7% increase in base pay this year and over 12% over the next two years, with an additional one-off cash payment of 4% in May.

“Our lowest paid and strongest performers will receive more.

“The changes we have made ensure the FCA’s pay and benefits package remains one of the best, if not the best, of any regulatory or enforcement agency in the UK.

“While we acknowledge the recent vote, we respect colleagues’ decision and understand the strength of feeling about some of the changes we have made.”

It was unclear how many staff are members of the union but there have been reports of unease since the changes were first announced.

Last month the FCA attempted to draw a line under the matter by proposing pay rises for high-performing staff.

However, performance-related bonuses would still be scrapped, the FCA said at the time.

Officials said in March that they would increase current proposed pay rises and give workers a one-off cash payment in recognition of the changes in the cost of living.

Base pay will rise 5% this year, compared to previous proposals of 4%, and a 4% backdated cash payment will also be made.

However, the pay rises will only be rewarded to staff who hit performance-related targets, although those who miss them will be able to get partial uplifts at mid-year reviews, the FCA said.

Chief executive Nikhil Rathi said at the time: “I understand the strength of feeling about some of the changes we are making.

“We have welcomed the open debate and discussion and, with the Board, considered all the feedback we have received.

“We believe we have developed a fair, competitive and sustainable offer that will help us achieve our regulatory objectives, as well as diversity goals, that supports the lowest paid and the strongest performers, with most colleagues receiving a minimum salary increase of over 9% over the next two years and an average of over 12% over that period.”

As part of the offer, around 800 of the FCA’s lowest paid staff will receive average salary increases of £4,310 to bring them up to new lowest salary benchmarks.

With other salary increases and performance related pay, overall average increases will be around £5,500, the FCA said.

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