CAMPAIGNS: Trade Unions - UNIFI sways Competition Commission

Client: UNIFI

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: 'Refer the bid' - to stop Lloyds TSB's planned takeover of

Abbey National

Timescale: 5-19 January

Budget: £5,000

When Lloyds TSB launched a hostile bid for the Abbey National, it was

feared that as many as 20,000 jobs could be axed and 720 branches could

close if the bid succeeded.

Finance union UNIFI believed that if the bid was not referred to the

Competition Commission (CC), then the cuts would be inevitable.

Lloyds TSB confirmed its intention to bid for Abbey National on 5

January and submissions had to be made to the Office of Fair Trading by

19 January. The OFT then had until 2 February to make a recommendation

to Stephen Byers, the then Secretary of State for Trade and


UNIFI had contacts in both camps but was not on good terms with Abbey

National sister union, ANSA. More seriously, it was also waging a

recruitment war with Lloyds TSB in-house union LTU.


To seek a coalition of pressure groups to fight the bid, while pursuing

a political and media agenda to reinforce the benefits of a referral to

the CC.

Strategy and Plan

To forge its coalition, UNIFI approached the Consumers' Association, the

Federation of Small Businesses, the Campaign for Community Banking, ANSA

and LTU. Only LTU turned it down.

Separate submissions were made to the OFT, but these were dovetailed to

ensure consistency of message. A press campaign was launched against

City analysts, who were convinced that a referral would not be


UNIFI representatives met Martin Salter MP, chair of the All-Party

Banking Group, and he agreed that an Early Day Motion should be tabled,

and that an emergency meeting of the all-party group be convened.

UNIFI wrote to every MP and encouraged ANSA members to write to their

MPs asking them to sign the Early Day Motion.

UNIFI also highlighted the fact that combined jobs losses at steelmaker

Corus and carmaker Vauxhall, both of which have controversially closed

plants in recent months, were not as high as the massive job cull

planned by Lloyds TSB. UNIFI pointed out that, relative to the uproar

which greeted Corus and Vauxhall's culls, the reaction to Lloyds' plans

was small because the jobs were service and principally finance sector

white-collar jobs, done mainly by women on a part-time basis.

On the last day for submissions to the OFT, UNIFI set up breakfast show

radio interviews and commissioned an 'advan' to drive round the City,

and park outside the OFT, Lloyds TSB and Abbey offices.

Measurement and Evaluation

According to UNIFI communications director Dai Davies, the only way that

the union would evaluate the campaign was in terms of quantifiable


'The bottom line was to try to save 9,000 jobs and to bring some

publicity to the carnage that is going on in the financial sector,' he



The All-Party Banking Group met and heard UNIFI's evidence, which

resulted in a deputation being sent to OFT director John Vickers, and to

Stephen Byers, to persuade them to refer the bid.

The OFT referred the bid to the CC and, on 10 July, the Trade Secretary

Patricia Hewitt confirmed that the bid would not be allowed to


The drive picked up the Campaign of the Year award at the TUC Press and

PR Awards.

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