British banks held up by 24-hour union strike

Britain's Banking, Insurance, and Finance Union has called a 24-hour strike, the latest union action by white-collar workers to hit the country. The strike is over a 10 percent pay raise which members of the much larger rival Clearing Bank Union (CBU), which is not affiliated with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has already accepted.

Considerable disruption to the services of the five clearing banks is expected, even though the banks claim that out of their 11,000 branches only 137 were closed April 22, involving about 3,500 workers. The unions claim that 12, 000 of their members have responded to the strike call.

Branches were operating Wednesday nevertheless, in some cases with reduced staff who chose not to strike, or management doing essential tasks. Official pickets, however, were rather less than expected.

Bank computer centers and credit card facilities were hit by walkouts as well. While customers may not be too worried about not getting their statements when due, or by not having their payments cleared on due date, the service to retailers has a greater nuisance value. It could mean not being able to charge items to one's credit card, since retailers would be unable to check and confirm customers' credit limits.

As the employers have insisted that they will not improve on their pay offer, there may be yet another aggravation added to customers hit by strikes in other areas of their lives. Strikes continue in other civil service sectors, with the worst hit service to the public being the main passport office w hich is closed until further notice.

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