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Reward & Employee Relations
Thank you for your correspondence of 11th August 2019 setting out the Department’s draft final offer for Pay 2019.
I would like to acknowledge your constructive approach and engagement within our discussions. In particular we recognise your efforts to maximise the value of available Treasury Remit funds, in directing most beneficial pay range shortening arrangements alongside minimum 2% award. While it is our strong view that the Remit reflects unreasonably circumscribed ‘art of the possible’, we are grateful for your good faith and judgement in securing broadly based benefit for the majority of staff in scope.
Nevertheless I must set out here our profound disappointment that, once again, our members will see no significant pay uplift in 2019. Government pay policy is of course a political matter beyond the ambit of our discussions however am bound to reflect that Treasury Remit constraint was never capable of meeting our membership aspirations for substantial pay award following meagre settlements over many successive years. Few will recognise the former Prime Minister’s October 2018 declaration that ‘Austerity is Over’ in this offer, while recent announcements of higher Salary Review body recommendations – notably for police and the Senior Civil Service – only compound the sense of insult our people feel. There is little here to persuade our membership they are well valued by their employer.
Context is familiar but even so bears brief repetition. Relative to private sector earnings growth and to Consumer and Retail Price Index movements over the past ten years, Home Office salaries have failed to keep pace, significantly reducing the spending power of our salaries. Measures vary but on every credible analysis the market value of our salaries has reduced in the order of 10 to 15% since 2010. Additionally increased pension contributions have further diminished take-home pay, whilst for most delivering reduced pension benefits. Meantime omnipresent mantra of ‘doing more with less’ has seen headcounts contract significantly in many areas, further escalating workplace demands on our people. In consequence our members are working harder, under more difficult and pressurised conditions than ever before in exchange for reduced standards of living. Our members do not necessarily expect the full gap to be closed in a single pay cycle however do now need to see material, sustained momentum towards redressing the balance. This year’s offer does not meet that test, instead sustaining an unacceptable status quo that undervalues our people.
And yet Departmental communications repeatedly assure us that the vital national security work our members do is highly valued. Counter-terrorism and serious criminality interventions at the Border, arrest and removal of high harm offenders in Enforcement – any high profile successes are routinely reflected in ‘gratitude and value’ senior management messaging. Our members cannot reconcile these proclamations of value with the reality that they feel consistently undervalued as a consequence of Civil Service pay strategy. Value is felt ultimately not in words but in deeds. Template communications, however finely wrought, will not persuade our people that they are well valued when they are consistently denied fair pay settlements. And so they conclude that their employer is fundamentally hypocritical.
It follows that the position on pay now undermines the core credibility of leadership engagement strategies. For instance, People Survey results have for many years now demonstrated profound dissatisfaction with pay and reward. Our front-line areas have tended consistently lower in that depressed spectrum. It is notable that this stark feedback, annually repeated, has driven little change. I acknowledge that there have been initiatives around reward and recognition however these have been largely marginal. People may like to be thanked for their efforts but not to the exclusion of receiving meaningful pay awards. In consequence the People Survey scores for pay and reward remain resolutely low and resolutely ignored, while other issues are selectively prioritised.
The reality is that the Department have been content progressively to reduce salary value and to disregard the inevitable associated impacts of that when addressing engagement and welfare issues. Pay is a central facet but has become the elephant in the room in those conversations – fundamentally undermining the integrity of otherwise commendable initiatives and very seriously tainting staff perceptions of senior leadership. It seems to us very likely that positive movement on pay would do a great deal to restore lost Departmental credibility and in time deliver improved People Survey outcomes across a range of measures.
However in the meantime, the position concerning so-called legacy allowances very much compounds these issues. I recognise that you have maintained the Pay 2018 position for this group of staff, offering non-consolidated 2% award with consolidated underpin for those who would otherwise fall beneath the bottom of their pay range. However we remain profoundly disappointed that our members who have merely exercised a contractual right in retaining these terms and conditions of service are again penalised.
This unnecessary, divisive approach is incompatible with Home Office Values. Our people do not feel that the Home Office treat them with respect when they are treated less favourably than their peers for reasons perceived as spiteful, when abstruse terms and conditions matters are of more importance to their employer than their experience, skills and delivery. The hostility and brute unfairness of this policy is felt most by those directly concerned however it also casts longer shadow, undermining Departmental claim to ethical leadership. All of our people recognise egregious corporate bullying when they see it. This approach is morale toxic and reflects a continued forfeiture of moral authority
Ultimately our people are pragmatic civil servants, who have been able to recognise difficult realities in absorbing extremely challenging impacts through these years of austerity. They now feel proper recognition for their discipline and sacrifice is long overdue, as too is genuine, sincere appreciation for their essential contributions to our national security. However it is most instructive that the extraordinary challenges we now face and the pivotal role our people must play in ‘taking back control’ of our Borders have prompted no fundamental reappraisal of reward strategy. Again our people are left to measure the distance between rhetoric and reality.
In the round as much as we do appreciate the approaches you have taken within your available remit, our members nevertheless feel that their contributions have for many years been undervalued as core policy objective and that this approach now continues and corrodes the credibility of Departmental positions across the spectrum of engagement. They know that their employer prioritises value above values and see no indications of change. Inevitably this position carries significant employee relations implications.
Our National Executive Committee will now reflect upon next steps and I will revert to you in due course.
26th August 2019