Pay row heats up as Bank of England faces first strike in 50 years

Catherine Neilan
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Will the Old Lady be joining the picket line? (Source: Getty)

The Bank of England is facing its first strike in half a century after a group of workers voted to walk out in a dispute over pay.

Workers at the iconic Threadneedle Street building are contesting their one per cent pay rise for the year beginning March 2017 against a backdrop of rising inflation.

A similar one per cent pay cap in the wider public sector has caused a gaping divide to open up between ministers who want it lifted and those who object to the move, pointing to an estimated £6.3bn annual cost.

The public sector pay cap has triggered a major political row, with Labour pushing for a rise in pay to offset the impact of inflation which has risen to a four-year high of 2.9 per cent, leaving wages trailing.

Unite, the union representing a small group of the Bank of England’s maintenance, security and parlour workers, called on governor Mark Carney to personally intervene to “settle this long-running dispute for the sake of the stability of the bank and the interests of its committed workforce”.

“Staff are angry that they have been given a below-inflation pay offer for the second year running,” the Unite statement added. “The result of this pay award is that up to one-third of the staff will get no pay rise in 2017 whatsoever.”

The walkout is due to take place for four days from 31 July. Talks are set to resume but if the dispute is not resolved, Unite is threatening to consult its members across other departments of the bank “as part of the escalation plan”.

Unite’s Mercedes Sanchez said: “Mark Carney needs to get his own house in order. It is nothing short of shameful that the iconic symbol of financial services in the UK is choosing to ride roughshod over the concerns of its dedicated and hardworking staff and impose this derisory pay deal. ”

A Bank of England spokeswoman said: “Should the strike go ahead, the Bank has plans in place so that all sites can continue to operate effectively.”

Yesterday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson followed Michael Gove as the latest high-profile Tory to defy Theresa May over the cap. Johnson is thought to back a rise above the one per cent increase for those working in the public sector, with a source telling Sky News he “strongly believes the rises can be done in a responsible way and without causing fiscal pressures”.

Last night chancellor Philip Hammond acknowledged the divisions the pay row was causing but said its policy had always been “designed to strike the right balance between being fair to our public servants and to those who pay for them”.

Pay review bodies will report their recommendations later this month.

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