ISU Membership Update 19.10.2017

Dear Members,

Following our last circular on the subject of Pay, you may by now have seen the Department’s latest Horizon update. This announces that they are undertaking research which may lead to their making a business case to Treasury for a pay award beyond the 1% cap in the 2018 pay round.

All quite the mouthful. This may seem rather a tortuous way of expressing the reality that ‘we deserve a pay rise’ and, of course, it is. Sadly little happens in government today without first moving a mountain of management process. This is the world we now inhabit. However, yes, we do cautiously welcome this for what it is. An acknowledgement that the current position of failing to invest in the very people trusted with delivering Border Security in the national interest is not sustainable.

Other, more emotive terms also apply. Contemptuous, shameful and reckless for instance. There are times when it seems to us that senior leaders in the Department are asleep at the wheel. They know the correct words, occasionally they place them in the correct order and yet, somehow, the actions that should accompany the fine sentiments don’t materialise. We are all greatly valued, our efforts for the nation deeply appreciated. Except when it has come to rewarding those achievements with real value. That’s been far too radical a sentiment these last years.

Somehow the idea seems to have taken hold that ‘feeling valued’ is as important as being paid decently. We hear very often that ‘staff just want to feel appreciated, they want managers to say thank you’. Now this is true enough, as far as it goes. So long as that’s a genuine, spontaneous reaction from managers people respect.

But when ‘saying thank you’ becomes almost the only idea left on the shelf, there are three very predictable consequences. Saying thanks becomes a management strategy rather than a sincere expression of gratitude. Staff rapidly tire of hearing the same words time and again, and in the absence of any meaningful accompanying action come to realise that this is insincere cant. They therefore feel less valued and more demotivated because they know the sentiments are empty and their employer respects them so little they believe that this transparent confidence trick will suffice.

So as proud as I am of ISU members, frankly I’ve heard enough senior management praise for your many successes. We’ve always known how good you are and how much you do in the national interest. We don’t need another ‘just passing through’ senior manager to tell us this.  We’re as bone weary of this patronising guff as you are. Let’s just be straight. Our employer has stood by for years, allowing the value of our wage packets to reduce and our standards of living to decline while making ever greater demands at work and creating welfare crises almost everywhere we look. Saying ‘thank you’ along the way does not prove that they care. It simply makes people feel even more exploited. All the while this continues it’s impossible to believe that we are truly valued by those at the top.

So when this year’s People Survey once again reports serious disenchantment with senior leaders in the Department, spare us the normal hand-wringing about being more visible for staff. The message is very simple. It’s less the visibility than that people just don’t buy your nonsense any more.

There’s more to this than pay, of course – but pay is the single most significant aspect. And also the best starting point for the Department to show people that they’re serious, that words will be matched by deeds and they do finally begin to understand what it will take to win back staff utterly disillusioned by their condescending disregard. And this is now reaching critical mass, no question. We hear membership anger loud and clear. Not only from people on AAA & SDA whose plight we described in detail last time – but also more widely.

From longer serving people at the top of their pay ranges who never receive any pensionable pay increase, just a low value ‘non-consolidated payment’. From newer faces who see no path to the top of their pay scale now pay progression has gone. From almost everyone who sees the steady decline in the quality of life their family enjoy. The rawness of emotion we now hear across the spectrum is difficult to digest some days – people who can’t afford to take their kids on holiday, have no chance of saving for a mortgage or who live in dread of any unexpected bill. Our people should not be in this much pain.

The message comes from numerous different perspectives but is now consistently this – our people need and deserve a meaningful pay rise.

However we cannot in conscience adopt the position that other Unions take, either in appearing to call for unlawful industrial action or failing to distance themselves clearly from that. That’s plain wrong. If you take unlawful industrial action you can be dismissed summarily and without compensation. And you should expect that to happen. There’s nothing we or any other Union can do to help in those situations. It isn’t that we don’t understand why people feel this way – we very much do – but Unions shouldn’t put their people at risk for political grand-standing.

The ISU don’t do party politics, we have no skin in that game. We aren’t here to promote any political cause, only to speak for our people. And when people as fundamentally decent, moderate and committed to the cause as ISU members express this level of anger, disappointment and frustration, it’s wise to listen. You are the people who protect Britain’s Borders and do the hard yards in Enforcement. National security cannot happen without you. The impressive results you deliver for this country need to be properly rewarded.

We will continue to engage with the Department to try to secure the pay deal our members deserve. And we will also explore any and all other options there may be to press that case. We believe in you but does your employer ?

Mark Gribbin

National Chair