Oddly Enough

ECB staff call first ever strike over benefit cuts

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European Central Bank staff, angry at planned changes to pension and employment benefits, have called their first ever strike on June 3, the day before the bank’s next interest rate decision.

Picture shows the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt May 6, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

The walkout will see disgruntled workers gather around the giant neon euro sign outside the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters for a 1-1/2 hour protest. They also plan to block nearby roads.

The International and European Public Services Organisation (Ipso), the staff trade union organising the protest, says the already-decided-upon changes could reduce staff benefits by as much as 15 percent.

They include forcing staff to make bigger pension contributions and a reduction of incentives for earlier retirement. Ipso says it is also angry about general lack of influence staff have in pay and benefit discussions.

“The aim (of the strike) is full grandfathering (or equivalent value) for all our members and their dependants concerning their pension entitlements; i.e. no change to the pension scheme as it is laid down in the Conditions of Employment as they were adopted by the ECB at its inception,” Ipso said in a recent letter to the ECB’s Executive Board.

The strike would be the first in the ECB’s 10-year history. Protesting staff plan to down tools from 3 p.m. British time.

In e-mailed comments, the ECB said staff had been consulted throughout the two-year decision-making process and that some of their suggestions had been taken on board. It argues the changes are necessary to make the pension scheme viable long term and prevent major funding gaps opening up.

The ECB added that plans had been put in place to ensure the bank’s key operations are not affected by the walkout. “The ECB’s Governing Council and the ECB’s Executive Board regrets the intention of staff representatives to call for a strike,” it said.

Ipso has around 450 members among the ECB’s 1,500 staff. Earlier this month the Standing Committee of European Central Bank Unions, which represents around 50,000 central bank workers across the whole of Europe also criticised the ECB.

“Whereas the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England are committed to transparency, the ECB remains closed to democratic accountability by the people’s representatives,” it said in a recent statement.

“Internally, this democratic deficit is illustrated by the absence of a sincere social dialogue and by denying the staff representatives within the ECB the right to negotiate the staff working conditions, which is the fundamental right of all employees.”

To see Ipso letter to ECB Executive Board please click (here)

Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by Stephen Nisbet