The financial regulator has brought in spinners from a leading City PR firm as it grapples with a staff revolt over pay reforms.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is dishing out more than £460,000 to FTI Consulting to provide internal communications support at a time when bosses are overhauling pay structures at the regulator, which staff claim will lead to three in four employees facing pay cuts of 10pc.
The FCA already has a sizable communications team so the decision to bring in expensive PR experts to handle internal messaging suggests it is struggling to effectively communicate with its 4,000 employees.
Jeannette Lichner, an FCA board member, previously worked for FTI as head of its financial services group.
It is understood that the regulator approached FTI directly after it failed to receive any bids for the consultancy work.
A spokesman for the FCA said: “FTI are providing communications support as part of our ambitious transformation programme to becoming a more proactive, data-led regulator. The board was not involved in their appointment.”
Chief executive Nikhil Rathi, who earns around £455,000 a year, is driving through changes to the FCA’s pay structures that will see staff bonuses axed.
A committee of employees consulting with management on the reforms have called for them to be delayed, citing a lack of information on the changes.
Staff at the regulator launched a campaign to unionise in recent months amid fears over the changes to pay grades.
In October, employees launched a formal petition for union recognition, with Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, saying it has seen “significant growth” in membership from FCA employees due to “growing disenchantment” with the regulator’s leadership team.
Bosses have so far refused to formally recognise Unite, saying there is a “statutory process” for a trade union to seek recognition. The Bank of England and the Pensions Regulator already formally recognise trade unions.
Dominic Hook, Unite national officer, said: “While the FCA is ignoring the union and planning to make cuts to staff pay, it’s outrageous that they’re also spending nearly half a million pounds on communication consultants.”