UK - Barclays workers are to be balloted by Unite the Union for potential strike action over the closure of the final salary pension scheme.

The banking firm announced in June its intention to close the £15bn ( €17.3bn) Barclays UK Retirement Fund (BUKRF) to future accrual as it said the scheme had a £2.2bn deficit in September 2008. (See earlier IPE article: Capital rules may have forced Barclays' DB decision - consultant)

Barclays is holding a two-month consultation period with Unite over the changes to the defined benefit (DB) scheme, however the union claimed members are "incensed" at the pension proposals and in a consultative ballot 92% wanted a vote on industrial action.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said: "It is unacceptable that Barclays is proposing this unilateral change to workers' pensions. Unite members will not stand by as their employer rides roughshod over their retirement security."

The union, which represents more than 25,000 members at Barclays, confirmed the ballot over whether or not to take strike action would take place in August, with any potential industrial unrest scheduled for September.

Simpson argued: "Unite has proposed viable alternatives to Barclays in order to make the cost savings the company argues are essential for the pension scheme to be viable. The company has failed to engage with the union on these suggestions. We would urge Barclays to go back to the drawing board in order to avert damaging strike action."

However, Barclays claimed it was the union that had walked away from the consultation process and refused to re-engage in discussions on the pension issue.

A Barclays spokesman said: "Barclays regrets that Unite has signalled its intention to ballot for strike action. It is our firm belief the interests of all stakeholders are best served through continued open dialogue. We are therefore disappointed that Unite have chosen not to re-engage having previously walked away from discussions."

The bank said it "stands by" the security of pension benefits already accrued by employees and claimed it is "committed to ensuring that pension provision is sustainable, equitable and affordable".

"We will continue to consult and communicate with our employees.  In the event that any disruption led by Unite should occur, we will take all necessary steps to deliver continued service to our customers and clients," the spokesman added.

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