Staff at the FCA voted in April with 75% of those voting supporting industrial action. This was the first time staff at the FCA had ever voted to go on strike. FT Adviser reports that "61 per cent (380) of the 624 Unite members participated in the vote for industrial action, with 294 voting for strike action, which amounts to between 8 to 9 per cent of the total FCA workforce".
The reason for the vote was changes to pay and conditions at the FCA, have been described as "a swingeing package of pay cuts". Ire regarding the plans has particularly focused on the FCA Chief Executive, Nikhil Rathi, who has said he wants to transform the FCA into a "forward-looking, proactive regulator".
The ballot for industrial action was conducted by Unite, the union representing staff at the FCA, although the FCA has not formally recognised Unite. Where a trade union is recognised, employers are required to provide them with certain information to help with collective bargaining as well as inform and consult the union about major changes to the workplace. The industrial action by the FCA is some of the first involving the relatively recently elected General Secretary, Sharon Graham, who was elected on a platform of workplace organising, saying she "led her first walkout at 17 and has been winning campaigns ever since".
The industrial action started with a 48 hour strike on the 4th and 5th of May by staff based in London and Edinburgh. Around 40 staff are reported to have picketed the FCA headquarters in Stratford as the strike began, with staff chanting "hey, hey, FCA much more work and much less pay”.
The strike has been followed by 'work to rule' where Unite says staff "will withdraw the regular overtime and additional work they currently do outside of their contractual duties". Unite has also said that "there will be further action on the 9 - 10 June and then the 5 - 6 July".
What impact will the strikes and work to rule will on the FCA's ability to do its job? It is difficult to tell but Unite says "Unite is clear that both the industrial action and the work to rule will have a significant impact on the ability of the FCA to conduct its regulatory responsibilities and damage the standing of the organisation". Financial News reports Unite saying that 300 staff would be taking part in the strikes. The FCA has around 4,000 staff in total.
Meanwhile, the FCA has been trying to hire more staff to help reduce delays with processing authorisation, change in control and SMCR applications. In February, the FCA, stated in relation to change in control applications, that there was "a delay of approximately two months between submission of a complete notification and allocation to a case officer." The FCA also said that "we are recruiting additional case officers, and are making improvements as part of the FCA’s Transformation programme to reduce the time taken to allocate and determine cases."
The Financial Times reported in February that the FCA was bringing in about 25 staff from BDO to help with senior manager regime applications, and 20 from DLA Piper to work on change of control applications, in addition to advertising about 200 supervision jobs by the end of March.
While a lot of staff appear to have left across the FCA recently and some of the most senior posts at the FCA have not been immune from turnover. In particular, in January, the COO of the FCA stepped down and was replaced by Emily Shepperd, who is also Executive Director for Authorisations at the FCA as well as being responsible for the FCA's 'transformation' programme. She has perhaps one of the toughest jobs at the FCA to improve the processing of authorisation and other applications.
Nikhil Rathi said in a recent speech that "just 18 months after starting at the FCA, I have witnessed levels of change and transformation that I was told would be too challenging, even impossible, when I first took the role". There is no doubt that change is afoot at the FCA and that more is coming. It remains to be seen what that change will mean for consumers and FCA authorised firms.
"hey, hey, FCA much more work and much less pay”