ISU Membership Circular 06.09.2016

Dear Members,

There are two consultations of interest currently running across the Home Office – the first concerns reform to the PDR system but the most recent is a…..

 ‘Rewards and Benefits Survey’

The Department are concerned that their ‘Reward Strategy’ may not deliver best value for them or for staff – and want to find out what rewards and benefits most motivate staff. We don’t object to this in itself – giving people a voice is a positive step – but let’s not forget the context here.

We can be reasonably clear on some things which do not motivate staff. Pay freezes followed by tiny pay awards well adrift of the rising cost of living. Swingeing increase in pension contributions reducing take home pay. Staff reductions making people work ever harder to ‘deliver more with less’ – and for less. Your employer has systematically eroded your ‘reward and benefits’ in recent years. And there is no money available to make any amends for that, even if the Department so desired.

It is one of the curiosities of the moment that, while the Osborne target to balance the national books by 2020 has been abandoned by the new administration, this change in political weather is yet to filter through. The Department continue to plan on basis of reductions required to meet that abandoned target. We can only await developments but there is no sign yet of any ‘Brexit’ bonus for us.

How to motivate and retain staff whilst paying them less is the Department’s conundrum. In our areas of course they’re failing – abjectly in places. Staff are hired and trained at significant cost but before long many vote with their feet and move elsewhere.

It isn’t all about pay, of course. Work/life balance is also important while people who feel appreciated and fulfilled in their work tend to stay and help their employer thrive…..but let’s just say that the feelgood factor is deeply elusive in most places. Our members report almost no sense of feeling valued by their employer and corrosive workplace environments. One example amongst many is the….

PDR System

We covered launch of the PDR consultation in an earlier circular but have since received requests to add to our comments. We don’t think it appropriate to direct members in choosing between the 4 options offered – different aspects have different value for different people – but will add some further general words on the subject.

None of the 4 options include ‘forced distribution’, the hated ranking system. There are several good reasons for this.

The system operates in a discriminatory way that is profoundly immoral.

Forced distribution also instils a culture of blame and fear, doing nothing to promote a creative, inclusive workplace where staff feel valued.

The system has done absolutely nothing to improve Departmental performance. This toxic system has poisoned the well and for no advantage whatever.

A decision will be made by the Board now in October. It’s imperative that impetus for change is meantime maintained. We urge you all to reinforce in your feedback the message that forced distribution must end.

Bottom 10% Case Conferences

However even while consultation to replace this discredited system is ongoing, the Dept are now introducing mandatory Case Conferences for those with two or more consecutive bottom 10% rankings.  This includes invocation of formal Poor Performer measures, although the language on this has been diluted significantly.

However, let’s be clear. Staff who aren’t meeting job requirements should already be under the Poor Performer process. That is an entirely separate category. Anyone in the bottom 10% is by definition a satisfactory performer. Poor performer process is not a logical progression here. The more so when we know that the profile of those placed in the bottom 10% has been continually discriminatory throughout and many in that position have received little if any meaningful development support.

Even as the Dept contemplate abandoning their dreadful PDR system, they remain determined to extract every last drop of poison. We will be watching closely for further discriminatory outcomes from a discriminatory system.

Border Pressures

The summer season continues to create enormous strain – in particular, pressures grow ever more intense at the Channel ports. A reminder for members yet to respond to the ISU Welfare Survey for Calais and Dunkirk that this closes on Friday 9th September – we want to hear from as many of you as possible.

Across all Border Force locations, we become ever more concerned at the welfare impacts of current working conditions. We urge members who are experiencing stress at work to approach their managers for support – Stress Risk Assessments and Incident at Work forms should be completed. This applies also to management grades members. There seems a perception that support is no longer required beyond a certain point – that is pernicious, untrue and harmful. The grades really have a great deal in common here.

Objective evidence of welfare impacts is valuable indeed – the more, very much the better. Please help us to help you – don’t suffer in silence !

Mark Gribbin

National Chair