Financial Conduct Authority  

Unite urges FCA to have ‘staff-led action plan’

Unite urges FCA to have ‘staff-led action plan’

Trade union Unite has called for the Financial Conduct Authority to have a ‘staff-led’ action plan which includes recognising the union, changes to performance, and health benefit contributions scaled to pay.

Unite said the Covid crisis showed that the FCA relies on the knowledge, experience, and motivation of its staff to step up in challenging times. 

However, it said staff have experienced severe pay cuts, poorer work conditions, and unfair performance reviews.

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In an update it said: “The FCA has seen a turnover of nearly a fifth of all staff in the last year alone and a quarter in the last two years, with many leaving daily. 

“Unite has seen morale collapse and 60 per cent of FCA staff now say they no longer have trust or confidence in leadership.

“As a result, staff are leaving, FCA performance is declining across the board, firms are not getting value for their fees, and consumers are being failed.”

The union said the City watchdog no longer has the people, experience and institutional knowledge needed to regulate in difficult financial times.

“Unite believes there is an alternative,” it said. “It is time to be honest about the challenges both leadership and staff face so we can work together to get the FCA back on track.”

As part of the action plan, Unite said the regulator needs to:

  • Recognise Unite the union, stating the FCA is one of the only public bodies not to recognise a union.
  • Pay and reward: Unite said the 4 per cent uplift in base pay made in the ‘offer’ is “now badly out of date” and needs readjusting for inflation.
  • Performance and grading: Judge staff on their actual performance, not on a curve. Unite claimed managers at the FCA are forced to find 15 per cent of competent staff as failing just to meet quotas.
  • Transparency and accountability: Unite said staff deserve transparency on how their pay is calculated and said to link director remuneration to diversity, inclusion and staff survey outcomes.
  • Benefits and conditions: Health benefit contributions scaled to pay as the current one-off excess penalises the lowest paid and part-time staff.

Is this realistic?

Unite said it is not asking the FCA to row-back or abolish the employee offer in place.

“We’re simply asking to review its progress and update it where it is failing to meet the needs of the FCA and staff,” it said. 

“It’s the right and sensible thing to do.”

This comes after Unite wrote to the FCA’s chief executive calling for “greater transparency” on the rationale which sits behind the regulator’s decisions regarding employee pay.

The letter, written in October, told Nikhil Rathi that a situation where staff do not have visibility on pay “can lead to unnecessary misunderstanding and discontent”.

In this most recent update, Unite said in 2021-22 the FCA ran a significant surplus with £52.8mn in unspent firm fees – equivalent to 15 per cent of total staff spend. 

“Its reserves have increased to £121.3mn and the main reason for underspend is down to fewer staff.

“This means the FCA can afford to make significant and long-term improvements to pay and conditions. This would incentivise better performance, make the FCA a competitive employer, retain talent at the time we need it most, and cut huge costs in recruitment, training, and hiring third parties. 

“There is an alternative.”

The FCA has been approached for comment. 

Strike action

Earlier this year, the FCA’s Unite members took part in the first day of strike action and held placards and flags complaining about changes to pay and conditions of employment.

The strike followed on after members of Unite agreed to take part in a work-to-rule, meaning they would work strictly to their contracts of employment, job descriptions and working hours.