Staff at Barclays Bank due to strike on Christmas Eve

Members of the finance trade unions, BIFU and UNiFI, have been called upon to support a fourth one-day strike which is due to take place on 24 December 1997, in a long running dispute with one of the UK's major banks, Barclays.

Trade unions representing employees at Barclays Bank- the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union (BIFU) and the Barclays-specific UNiFI- have been involved in a dispute with management for some six months (UK9707147N). The unions claim that under a new performance-related pay and grading scheme, staff face a salary freeze in which seven out of 10 employees will see a cut in their expectations in terms of earnings and pensions. The unions claim that despite numerous attempts to negotiate a solution, the bank refuses to go to the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) or to reopen meaningful negotiations on the issue. Three one-day strikes have already taken place on 17 and 20 October and on 7 November. Now unions feel that they have to take the more drastic step of striking on one of the busiest shopping days of the year - Christmas Eve.

After the first day of action, the unions were hailing a success while the company was attempting to downplay the dispute by stating that only 209 of its 1,985 branches were forced to close. The unions stated that support for the second day of action was even higher, with over 28,000 staff walking out. The bank replied that on this occasion only 176 of its branches were forced to close.

The two days of action led ACAS to offer its services in the dispute, which were turned down by the bank. This led to the unions calling a further day of action. Although not as successful as the first two days, the unions argued that this was largely because the bank had attempted to divide employees by offering computer staff, who caused the bank much inconvenience by joining the first days of action, a second wage rise. The unions also alleged that fewer branches closed than previously because staff were being "intimidated" by the company into not taking any more action.

A strike on Christmas Eve is likely to cause much disruption, especially as many users of Barclaycards may not be able to obtain authorisation for use of the card. The bank says that it has no intention of reopening negotiations over the pay and grading scheme.

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