Civil service pay: unions seek “negotiated multi-year settlement” amid Brexit row

Written by Jim Dunton on 6 January 2017 in News
News

Brexiteers react with fury to Senior Salaries Review Body submission that suggests implementing EU referendum result is pushing Whitehall to its limits

The FDA and Prospect unions have called on the government to ditch its ongoing 1% pay cap on civil service salaries and negotiate a new multi-year deal with senior staff to address pay anomalies with lower grades and “extremely low” morale.

Their latest submission to the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) also calls for the introduction of more centralised control of senior civil service workforce policy, and an end to the practice of capping salaries for internal promotions, potentially resulting in a lower salary than external candidates could obtain.

However, the unions’ suggestion that the new pressures placed on Whitehall resources by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union strengthened the case for an SCS pay rise immediately enraged pro-Brexit MPs.


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The FDA and Prospect said the creation of the Department for Exiting the European Union alone had drawn 250 predominantly SCS staff away from other departments, without confirmation that their former posts had been back-filled, and called for “realism on resourcing” that took the “major challenge” of Brexit into account.

The unions said their principal request for a pay rise above the 1% level was driven by a recognition that some members of the SCS had not received a consolidated pay rise for more than five years, and cited survey results indicating that just under one-third of officials in SCS band 1 managed non-SCS staff who earned more than them.

Their SSRB submission did not indicate ballpark salary-rise expectations, but FDA general secretary Dave Penman said senior civil servants had seen their pay cut by around one-quarter in real terms over recent years.

"Headcount reductions alongside a tsunami of work emanating from Brexit is leading to rocketing workloads and plummeting morale" – Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham

The FDA and Prospect said that members who actually received pay rises did so because they were being “paid demonstrably below the rate for their grade”, and warned that a lack of opportunity for staff to progress through pay-scales meant many were “simply waiting for the pay band minima to catch them”.

The unions added that centralising the SCS workforce policy would be key for boosting coordination, flexibility and commitment among the highest grades, but stressed such that a move would involve raising minimum pay levels in some departments.

Penman said the survey included in the SSRB submission threw new perspective on the unions’ arguments, and called on chancellor Philip Hammond to ditch predecessor George Osborne’s Whitehall pay restraint policies.

"Fresh from reducing the size of their departments, the SCS is now tasked with implementing Brexit on top of all of the government's existing priorities,” he said. 

“To quote one [FDA] member, ‘…the country needs a civil service that is optimistic, energised, proud, confident and ambitious – what we have is a senior civil service that is thoroughly dispirited and demotivated.’

“The strain of the pay freeze and staff reductions is taking its toll. The previous chancellor's policy of public sector pay restraint has led to a demoralised workforce and a civil service now reliant on expensive contractors and salary premiums for new hires.

“This chancellor needs to take a more realistic position and heed the FDA's call for real investment in the SCS, not a never ending series of temporary fixes dreamt up on the hoof that end up being a costing the public more than before the pay restraint began.”

That view was echoed by Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect, who said pay levels for senior officials "continue to fall dramatically behind their private sector comparators to the extent that the Cabinet Office no longer contests the issue".

He added: "Headcount reductions alongside a tsunami of work emanating from Brexit is leading to rocketing workloads and plummeting morale."

Graham called for a "more sophisticated approach towards pay and reward across the whole of the civil service" to ensure it could attract staff with specialist skills, warning: "The arbitrary and crude approach taken by the Treasury is unsustainable if the civil service is to recruit, retain and motivate the skilled staff it needs at both SCS level and below."

“Senior civil servants should be embarrassed that their union is asking for a pay rise at a time when the entire public sector is subject to necessary pay restraint" – Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith

But former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith was particularly critical of the suggestion that civil servants deserved a pay rise for dealing with Brexit. 

“Senior civil servants should be embarrassed that their union is asking for a pay rise at a time when the entire public sector is subject to necessary pay restraint,” he told the Daily Mail. “They should be relishing the challenge – and the best ones will be.”

Fellow backbench Conservative Steve Baker, who earlier this year called for civil servants to be "summarily fired" if they challenged Brexit, told the paper that civil servants already seemed “well rewarded” in comparison to the wider public. 

The survey data included in the joint FDA and Prospect SSRB submission found 94% of senior civil servants said their current reward framework was not fit for purpose, while more than one-quarter said they wanted to leave the civil service as soon as possible.

Just one-fifth of civil servants said they believed their department had sufficient resources to meet the demands of the year ahead.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they worked unpaid overtime that effectively amounted to an extra day at the office every week.

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Comments

About to VExit (not verified)

Submitted on 6 January, 2017 - 13:51
So Iain Duncan Smith's view is that “Senior civil servants should be embarrassed that their union is asking for a pay rise at a time when the entire public sector is subject to necessary pay restraint,” That's the same Iain Duncan Smith MP who, with his colleagues, received an 11% pay rise in 2015 and a further 1.3% increase last year. The terms "hypocrite" and "noses in trough" don't begin to cover it.

About to VExit

Submitted on 6 January, 2017 - 14:01
So Iain Duncan Smith believes “Senior civil servants should be embarrassed that their union is asking for a pay rise at a time when the entire public sector is subject to necessary pay restraint,” That would be the same Iain Duncan Smith MP who, with his fellow MPs, received an 11% pay rise in 2015 and a further 1.3% increase last year, The terms "hypocrite" and "noses in the trough" don't even begin to cover it.

John Doyle (not verified)

Submitted on 6 January, 2017 - 14:43
Iain Duncan Smith is quoted as saying “Senior civil servants should be embarrassed that their union is asking for a pay rise at a time when the entire public sector is subject to necessary pay restraint,” Are MPs not in the public sector?

Pliney the Elder (not verified)

Submitted on 6 January, 2017 - 14:54
With al DUE respect Mr Duncan-Smith, How embarrassed were you that you were "forced" to accept a mere 10% pay rise last year when we (below SCS) are taking home less than we did in 2010?

Russ

Submitted on 6 January, 2017 - 15:50
Now they know how the rest of us feel. They will be on less shaky ground in asking for a pay rise when the annual staff survey results show a marked improvement on the question of leadership.

Phil C (not verified)

Submitted on 6 January, 2017 - 16:33
Well that was predicable. As soon as anyone - whether it be the SSRB or the unions - makes the slightest suggestion of pay rises for Civil Servants, the right wing brigade comes out foaming at the mouth and starts throwing their teddies out the the pram. I'd have more respect for Iain Duncan Smith or any politician who complained against Civil Service pay rises if they hadn't been so willing to embrace the 10% pay and pension rise they received recently and their annual pay awards which are larger that that offered to most other parts of the public sector. He's a total hypocrite in my view. And what do these people want? A simpering, politically biased Civil Service, where all are subject to sweat shop pay and conditions not much better than those in an Amazon or Sports Direct warehouse? That's the direction we're heading in. I'm no fan of the Senior Civil Service, but if we want the best for our country, we need to start treating some of these guys in critically key positions with more respect and give them a competitive salary. And I'm saying that as a hard working taxpayer.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 9 January, 2017 - 09:40
If Dave Penman negotiates as well as he did over redundancy members will probably end up with a pay cut! Good to see how much he cares for the lower paid in other grades. Solidarity forever?

Not in the SCS (not verified)

Submitted on 9 January, 2017 - 10:51
What makes you think that it's only the Senior Civil Service that is "thoroughly dispirited and demotivated"? Those of us who don't get paid enough to be a JAM have had the same pay cuts and reductions in numbers seem to apply at the lower grades more than seniors.

William (MoD) (not verified)

Submitted on 10 January, 2017 - 15:11
Dear Prospect, Good to see that you are actually doing something - but I am still NOT paying the increase of 1.5%, on top of the 11% over the last 6 years, until I get a rise that takes me above what I took home in 2010.

Lainz (MoD) (not verified)

Submitted on 11 January, 2017 - 21:50
The 1% pay cap is significantly affecting the ability to afford rises in everyday living costs. I moved to a permanent position at MoD from a fixed term contract at Scottish Government. My drive for this was the status of permanency, due to several unsuccessful attempts to gain a permanent position, for the job I was already performing with SG (whilst undertaking the role of a higher paid Team Leader position without additional pay). Upon joining MoD, I have discovered that over the last 6 years, the minimum for my E1 Band has increased by only £1511. Even more alarming is that the maximum has increased only once in 2013, by a mere £207: 01/08/2010: £17835 - £20676 01/08/2011: £18370 - £20676 01/08/2012: £18370 - £20676 01/08/2013: £18554 - £20883 01/08/2014: £18845 - £20883 01/08/2015: £19109 - £20883 01/08/2016: £19346 - £20883 There are no longer "spine points" at MoD for my E1 Band, so I can look forward to moving to a maximum pay of £20883 with a minimal amount of income left after rent and bills, to save for my first home; the one thing which the Government did make a priority by introducing the Help to Buy Scheme and the Help to Buy ISA. I have no parents to move in with and if I decided to go back to "flat sharing" to save up, I will likely be penalised in any Credit Search for a mortgage, due to a recent address change, lack of longevity on the Electoral Register at a new address and closure of my utility / credit accounts. The 1% pay cap is simply beyond unfair, causing more financial strain than the Government understands. At SG, minimum pay rises on average of £1300 each year (never guaranteed but consistently the case) & a minimum of £400 is given to those at the maximum of their pay band. SG is considered "another Government Department", but it seems this is only true in terms of the ability to apply for other internal government jobs. My permanent move to MoD, although very much welcomed, is slightly regrettable. I urge the Government to seriously consider lifting the 1% pay cap and to realise that your Civil Servants are loyal and hard working, but are also suffering.

Lainz (MoD) (not verified)

Submitted on 11 January, 2017 - 21:51
The 1% pay cap is significantly affecting the ability to afford rises in everyday living costs. I moved to a permanent position at MoD from a fixed term contract at Scottish Government. My drive for this was the status of permanency, due to several unsuccessful attempts to gain a permanent position, for the job I was already performing with SG (whilst undertaking the role of a higher paid Team Leader position without additional pay). Upon joining MoD, I have discovered that over the last 6 years, the minimum for my E1 Band has increased by only £1511. Even more alarming is that the maximum has increased only once in 2013, by a mere £207: 01/08/2010: £17835 - £20676 01/08/2011: £18370 - £20676 01/08/2012: £18370 - £20676 01/08/2013: £18554 - £20883 01/08/2014: £18845 - £20883 01/08/2015: £19109 - £20883 01/08/2016: £19346 - £20883 There are no longer "spine points" at MoD for my E1 Band, so I can look forward to moving to a maximum pay of £20883 with a minimal amount of income left after rent and bills, to save for my first home; the one thing which the Government did make a priority by introducing the Help to Buy Scheme and the Help to Buy ISA. I have no parents to move in with and if I decided to go back to "flat sharing" to save up, I will likely be penalised in any Credit Search for a mortgage, due to a recent address change, lack of longevity on the Electoral Register at a new address and closure of my utility / credit accounts. The 1% pay cap is simply beyond unfair, causing more financial strain than the Government understands. At SG, minimum pay rises on average of £1300 each year (never guaranteed but consistently the case) & a minimum of £400 is given to those at the maximum of their pay band. SG is considered "another Government Department", but it seems this is only true in terms of the ability to apply for other internal government jobs. My permanent move to MoD, although very much welcomed, is slightly regrettable. I urge the Government to seriously consider lifting the 1% pay cap and to realise that your Civil Servants are loyal and hard working, but are also suffering.

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