Sacking Row Hits Bank of England

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Byline: RUTH SUNDERLAND

THE Bank of England is embroiled in a bitter dispute this weekend with a trade union after sacking seven staff who refused to sign new contracts of employment.

The six women and one man accuse the Bank of bullyboy tactics over its imposition of a new benefits scheme that cuts their annual holiday entitlement.

They are also angry over the scrapping of their low-cost staff mortgage scheme and slashed death-in-service benefits paid through the pension fund.

The row threatens to become highly embarrassing for the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.

Officials of the union, Unifi, are planning protests in the City and at Downing Street and are threatening to picket the monthly meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee, the economists who set the Bank's base rate. The Threadneedle Street Seven, who cannot be named but include secretaries and managers, are meeting their lawyers tomorrow and intend to claim unfair dismissal before an employment tribunal.

All are described as longstanding staff with up to 20 years' service.

One said: 'I have been sacked for nothing. I just can't come to terms with it.' The decision to scrap cheap mortgages was taken after the Bank was given the power to set base rates independently of the government. Officials were worried that they could be criticised for hypocrisy if their decisions raised mortgage rates for the public while enjoying low-cost homeloans themselves.

The Bank, however, denies that the new staff contracts were the result of pressure from the Treasury.

John Brawley, Unifi national secretary for the Bank, said: 'About 1,800 staff accepted the new contracts, but the vast majority did so to alleviate the Bank's bullying and pressure tactics on their families and themselves. …