Carney masks ready, Bank of England staff set for first strike in 50 years

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at the Bank of England are set to hold their first strike in more than 50 years on Tuesday in a push for higher pay, highlighting the growing pressure to end tight controls on public-sector wages in Britain.

Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, said staff members wearing masks of Governor Mark Carney would protest outside the BoE’s central London headquarters from 0715 GMT on Tuesday.

The three-day strike will overlap with this week’s interest rate decision and involves maintenance and security staff at the 323-year-old Bank.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has come under increasing pressure from lawmakers to end a below-inflation 1 percent cap on public sector pay rises that has been in place since 2013 as part of efforts to cut government spending.

Although it is operationally independent of the government, the BoE has also limited pay rises to 1 percent for most staff, in line with other public bodies.

Strike action would be potentially embarrassing for an institution whose policymakers have focused heavily on prospects for wage growth.

Unite said John McDonnell, finance spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, will attend Tuesday’s demonstration.

The Bank of England said Unite had balloted around 2 percent of the BoE’s 3,600-strong workforce and that it had plans in place to operate effectively.

“The Bank has been in talks with Unite up to and including today and remains ready to continue those talks at any time,” a Bank spokesperson said in a statement.

Workers in Britain have suffered a protracted hit to their spending power after the global financial crisis due to inflation rising faster than wages for most of the past decade.

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Unite said if the BoE fails to resolve the pay dispute, it would consult its members at the Bank in departments other than just maintenance and security on further action.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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