The introduction of a Partnership agreement between Barclays bank with union Unifi has turned round its strained relationships with staff in just three years. Roisin Woolnough reports how
How Barclays consults with its employees
Employer-employee relations at Barclays bank were very strained a few years ago. “There was a very bad dispute about pay in 1997 and industrial relations were at an all-time low,” says Jim Lowe, national secretary for the banking union Unifi, and lead officer at Barclays.
Some of the bank’s employees were unhappy with the pay structure and went on strike. As a result of the dispute, Barclays set up a Partnership agreement in early 2000, in conjunction with Unifi.
That was a real turning point according to Lowe: “It has turned the situation around and relationships are good now,” he says. “Nothing precludes us from taking industrial action still, but this is about good industrial relations and transparency.”
Mathew Davies, employee relations manager at Barclays, agrees that the Partnership initiative has made a tremendous difference. “Without it, I don’t believe we would have been able to implement the changes we have, the way we have,” he says.
The bank received funding from, and worked closely with the Partnership Institute at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Under the initiative, specific Partnership meetings are held twice a year with senior bank executives dealing with bank policy. Monthly consultations with HR, Partnership sub-committees and a jointly accredited representatives scheme also take place.
Union officials and lay members elected on a 50/50 basis are consulted over change management policy, too. “The consultation aims to have a due process recognised for change management,” says Lowe. “There’s a lot of transparency of decision-making and they consult with us at a very early stage.”
One of the areas the Partnership has focused upon is setting generic policies across the bank. “It has been very valuable in terms of influencing some of Barclay’s people policies,” says Davies. “Things such as flexible working, pay deals, maternity policies, career break options and so on.”