Unions call on finance sector to end ‘attack’ on jobs and pensions

Trade union leaders have called on employers in the finance sector to halt their “attacks” on jobs and pensions.

The Unite union says that, despite billions of pounds of government support for major banks, 50,000 mainly low-paid jobs have been cut in the sector over the past 12 months.

The job cuts were part of the biggest shake-up ever seen in the finance sector following the bail-out and forced break-up of Northern Rock, Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. It emerged yesterday that nearly £62bn of taxpayers’ money was lent to RBS and HBOS by the Bank of England in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer, said front-line staff who earn the lowest salaries “have been made the sacrificial lambs in this crisis”.

“The financial crisis caused by the greedy, incompetent and corrupt City bankers has brought pain and misery to 50,000 finance workers across the country, and many more face continued uncertainty about their future job security,” he said.

Union activists have been meeting in Brighton this week to discuss a future plan of action in the financial sector.

MacGregor acknowledged the “unprecedented level of change” in the sector, but accused the banks of turning to job cuts too quickly. “You have to question if they are exploring all possible alternatives,” he said. “It improves morale and motivation if it can be shown that the employer has done everything it can to avoid redundancies.”

Unite is also calling for a fresh debate on the future of pensions in the sector. “The majority of workers in the sector are on modest salaries, typically below £17,000, but the total reward package has been good because of the pensions on offer,” MacGregor said.

“But with many banks turning to defined contribution schemes, it means that people who were already faced with a modest pension are going to lose out even further.”

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