Stand up to Bankers' Blackmail
Trade unions have urged the government to reject Royal Bank of Scotland bosses' blackmail and call their bluff over massive bonus plans.
The bank's board has threatened to quit if the Treasury blocks plans to pay out bonuses to its staff to the tune of £1.5 billion, despite having had to be bailed out to the tune of billions of pounds by the taxpayer.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber warned that the threats proved that nothing had been learned from the economic collapse only last year.
"The banks nearly brought down the whole economy only a year ago. Few would have survived without government or Bank of England help," he said.
"Yet now we learn that they are back to the bad old days when they confused their telephone numbers with what they were paid.
"Surely there must be a limit to the amount of champagne that even a banker can consume in a year?"
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis described directors at the bank a "disgrace" and called on them to "come down to Earth and realise their world has changed."
He said that, despite banks and financial institutions causing a collapse that has forced many thousands onto the dole, plenty of those claiming benefits would be happy to be able to find a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.
"It is outrageous that millionaire bankers are trying to blackmail taxpayers into paying them multimillion-pound bonuses," added Unison Greater London nursing officer Michael Walker at the union's London Nursing Conference in Lewisham.
"Nurses on many wards could state that, without a significant pay rise, they may be forced to leave nursing and therefore patient care could suffer.
"Yet nurses are not offered a pay rise, they are facing the threat of a pay freeze from millionaire Tories."
And Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher added: "The government should respond to this blackmail with one word. Goodbye."
But the government responded with very mixed signals.
Chancellor Alistair Darling warned that he was prepared to veto the size of the bank's bonus pool after City Minister Lord Myners warned that at least 5,000 bankers would pocket more than £1 million each this year unless action was taken.
Lord Myners said there was "precious little evidence" that people at the top of the banks appreciated the "concern about these extraordinary levels of income."
He called on major shareholding institutions to tackle the issue immediately, before it was too late.
However, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson struck a different note, expressing support for the board and appearing to contradict the earlier stance taken by the Treasury.
"I understand the point of view that Royal Bank of Scotland directors are expressing - they have to remain competitive in the market in recruiting senior executives," he said, adding that bonuses "form an integral part" of remuneration packages for senior staff, although he urged banks to exercise restraint voluntarily.
A spokesman for the bank merely claimed that bonuses were necessary to operate in "competitive markets."