ECB staff stage first-ever strike

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated Jun 3, 2009 at 2:02 PM CDT

Around a fifth of the staff working at the European Central Bank (ECB) walked out on Wednesday to stage the bank's first-ever strike, one day ahead of the bank's key rate-setting meeting.

Some 300 employees gathered at 1400 GMT at the foot at the Eurotower, the ECB's skyscraping headquarters in Frankfurt, armed with blue umbrellas, EU flags, drums and whistles for the 90-minute warning strike.

The action -- called by the ECB's Ipso union -- sought to draw attention to workers' demands for better pension rights and to what they describe as a "democratic deficit" at the bank.

"At the moment, the management's logic is 'we listen to you and then we ignore you.' This is not worthy of a European institution," said one striker.

Ipso boss Adrian Petty told AFP: "We are asking for checks and balances within the ECB."

"Mr Trichet's internal policies have failed," Petty added, referring to Jean-Claude Trichet, the bank's president.

According to the treaty that established the ECB ten years ago, the bank must "consult" with employees on decisions that concern them, but does not need to "negotiate" with them.

Ipso also describes a reform of the pension system that came into force on June 1 as "unfair" and said that individual employees would take the bank to court in the coming months.

The six-person Executive Board of the ECB, which manages the operations of the bank, said it had taken "the necessary measures to ensure that ECB functions are performed during the strike without interruption."

In late May, when the strike was announced, an ECB spokesman said it "regretted" the action.

The strike comes before arguably the busiest day of the month for the ECB as its 21-person governing council meets to decide on interest rates for the 16-country euro area.

The ECB is widely expected to leave rates on hold at their record low level of one percent on Thursday and unveil a multi-billion euro bond purchase scheme aimed at easing tight credit and boosting the recession-wracked economy.

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