Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) announced the latest step in its campaign to preserve its profits. Having driven out tens of thousands of staff, kept wages down against a backdrop of inflation, and intensified the rate of work for the remaining staff, now it intends to take on the longest serving workers with attacks to the pension scheme.
On 6th November 2013, Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) announced the latest step in its campaign to preserve its profits, and the consultation period came to a close on 22nd January 2014. Having driven out tens of thousands of staff, kept wages down against a backdrop of inflation, and intensified the rate of work for the remaining staff, now it intends to take on the longest serving workers at Lloyds Banking Group with a 0% cap on the Defined Benefit (DB) pension scheme.
Around 35,000 workers in Lloyds have part of their wages paid into the DB scheme, and these are all the longest serving employees – by definition, the workers most loyal to the bank, with the greatest amount of experience. The leaders of the association organising workers in Halifax and Bank of Scotland, Accord, reported members of the union expressing anger and disgust at the latest announcement.
The question was raised for Accord’s Principal Executive Council (PEC – Accord’s equivalent of an executive committee) of what exactly is sacred. If the wages and pensions of those most loyal to the bank – the people giving decades of their working lives – are not sacred, what is?
Never in the history of Accord has a strike been organised. New recruits going into training with the bank are given the spiel of how proud they are for never having been on strike – how everything is sorted through dialogue and discussion! Well, comrades, LBG don’t seem in the mood for talking. The very fact the leadership is openly discussing a ballot is a sign of the pressure they have come under from members of the union
Since the PEC meeting in November, however, the union leadership has openly discussed the possibility of a ballot for industrial action. This is an absolutely correct step to take. But we must learn from the mistakes of recent years. The reason LBG feel able to take on this core section of its workforce is because it has been emboldened by the timidity of the leaders of the main unions organising in the bank. Not a peep has been heard from Unite on this latest attack! LBG have been able to sack thousands; they have cut bonuses for branch and call centre staff – that is, those on piecework wages – in half, as well as double, triple and even quadruple the amount of work needed to earn them; and have allowed ‘natural wastage’ to whittle away the workforce further without replacing staff, leaving a workforce two-thirds the size with the same amount of work to do! For years Accord have announced a strategic retreat at the first sign of movement from the bank. How many times must it be said, weakness invites aggression!
Lloyds Trade Union – fresh from its victory in court against the bank’s imposition of new contracts – asked all the right questions: who gains? Chief Executive Horta-Osorio for one. Unlike the workers generating his and the shareholder’s profits, Horta-Osorio gets not one, but two pensions! The first is 50% of his ‘reference salary’ of £1.2 million per year; the second is linked directly to the bank’s share price – which has been on the up with every new measure to wrench more profit from the bank’s staff. Half-a-million a year will do a little more than get the average worker by in their twilight years! We could only dream of the kind of life this would give Horta-Osorio; for retired workers the choice is all too often between heating or eating.
This latest attack has come at a time when LBG’s profits have rocketed – in the first six months of 2013 it made £2.1 billion in profit, compared to a £456 million loss for the same period of 2012. Of course, the bank would have been in profit much earlier after the initial crisis, had it not swindled thousands of people through the PPI scandal – which has cost it £7.3 billion to date. Last year’s profits have been built on a more intense exploitation of their employees’ labour – in effect squeezing sweat, mind and muscle to pay for the PPI scandal, as well as the bailout. Run by the capitalists, and in their interests, they have proven incapable of managing Lloyds without simultaneously becoming parasitic on its customers through mis-selling, relying on state support for its survival, and rolling back the wages and working conditions of workers in the bank. Enough is enough! The complete nationalisation of Lloyds and all the other banks is long overdue!
Accord must break with decades of its history, form a united front with Lloyds Trade Union and Unite, with a view to unification, and call a strike ballot to defend the DB pension scheme. Time is running out to build support for a ‘yes’ ballot for industrial action. Once we have won this dispute, we can move from the defensive to the offensive – force the complete nationalisation of the bank, under the democratic control of the working class, so that the wealth created by the workers can be used as part of a plan for production, and not a plan for profit. If the current leadership will not or cannot do this, then we must fight for and elect a leadership which will!