The Barclays’ pension dispute is a crucial fight for the Unite union and the working class in general. The bank is trying to close its final salary pension scheme to existing members in a well-unionised workplace.
If Barclays succeeds then every other major employer, including those in the public sector, will seek to follow suit.
The recent 92 percent vote for an industrial action ballot showed the anger at the company’s proposal.
Unite now needs to build on this anger. It has a “partnership” agreement with the bank which in the past has restricted its ability to campaign.
But both sides have agreed that the pensions issue is outside of partnership. The union needs to take advantage of this to increase its campaigning ability.
It needs to make the point to staff that Barclays can be beaten and that the union has a clear strategy for doing this. It should also publicise recent victories gained by workers over the bosses.
Unite is saying that it will only ballot those staff in the final salary pension scheme for action in order to stay within the law. This is recipe for division.
Though there are enough union members in the final salary scheme to beat Barclays, the union should take this opportunity to turn defence into attack.
It should demand that Barclays opens up a career average salary scheme to all staff. Having just sold Barclays Global Investors for £8.2 billion, the bank can afford this.
This will increase the percentage of working members in the scheme and stop it dying a slow death.
It will also enable the union legally to ballot all its members in Barclays.
The union should seize this opportunity to increase its workplace organisation within Barclays.
There should be a day of action outside Barclays’ offices and branches with Unite officials leafleting staff arguing for support for industrial action and looking to identify members who are willing to act as reps.
The ballot for action is set to take place this month.