Barclays bracing itself for protests

BARCLAYS&rsquo; staff are set to stage a protest over pensions outside the bank&rsquo;s annual meeting today.<br /><br />Barclays chief executive John Varley has argued that the bank&rsquo;s pension fund deficit is worsening and curtailing its final salary pension scheme is best for present and future staff, and its pensioners.<br /><br />But the Unite union, which represents more than 25,000 workers at the bank, said its British members were &ldquo;incensed&rdquo; by the decision to close the final salary scheme.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our members will not accept this decision by the bank to erode their pension arrangements,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Barclays&rsquo; UK retirement fund, which includes its final salary and hybrid funds, had a deficit of &pound;2.2bn at the end of September, compared with a &pound;200m surplus just a year earlier, it said.<br /><br />Barclays is proposing that no future benefits can be built up in the final salary scheme, with staff instead joining a hybrid cash balance plan.<br /><br />Unite said it welcomed the bank&rsquo;s &pound;3bn profit unveiled on Monday but that it was &ldquo;appalled&rdquo; by the bank&rsquo;s attitude to long-serving workers.<br /><br />The union said the decision to close the scheme came despite the retention of &ldquo;fat cat bonuses for senior executives at Barclays&rdquo;.<br /><br />Unite members are planning to wave placards bearing the words &ldquo;Hands off our pensions&rdquo; to highlight their anger at the proposals.<br /><br />Unite said a strike ballot would be held later this month and a consultative poll had indicated that 92 per cent of staff would back the action.