The wave of outrage prompted by imposition of the 2017 Pay settlement – and particularly the exclusion of AAA & SDA staff – continues unabated. Pay is now coming to define the distance between the Department’s fine words and their frequently less savoury deeds – it has become a toxic issue of moral authority.
Our 11th August circular details the background and shortly afterwards I wrote some further words to Heathrow members – I’ve been asked to publish that note more widely and to add some further thoughts. With apologies to Heathrow folk for repetition, I’m happy to oblige.
Firstly, a pay award once again lagging so far behind cost of living rises is an insult to us all. Year on year that insult deepens as our quality of life shrinks. To state the obvious, when it comes to pay always follow the money. We are told repeatedly that all we do is greatly valued – the sincerity of that is inevitably undermined when the concrete value we actually receive is so very limited.
But, of course, we’ve all heard about the 1% Civil Service salary cap. However that does not prevent individual government departments from submitting business cases to Treasury for pay settlements above that level. Others have done that and succeeded. But so far as the Home Office are concerned, it seems we just aren’t worth it. Our work is vital to national security – but not so vital that we should be well respected or rewarded for it. Bear this in mind when you read the next message from the Permanent Secretary paying tribute to our achievements.
However it is the continued targeting of AAA & SDA people who simply want to retain their terms and conditions of service that is most repellent. It feels spiteful, vindictive and small-minded. It is also a foolish own goal that calls leadership judgement into question. The message is this. Exercise your legal rights by all means – but if we don’t like your decision, we’ll starve you out. However many years it takes. Your pay will never catch up now, your detriment is permanent. Don’t dare defy us!
This is hardly the sort of conduct called to mind by the values of integrity and moral courage we hear so much about. At best, withholding pay rises from those on AAA & SDA whilst loudly proclaiming ‘Values’ patently at odds with that action is hypocritical. Actually, it may be still worse than that. The excerpt below is from the Home Office Statement on Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination:-
‘Unacceptable behaviour also includes persons in authority using their position to bully, abuse or harass others, or assuming a threatening or intimidating management style, or carrying out practices and procedures that are deliberately or even potentially discriminatory.’
I really would like to see a clear, written explanation of how it is that intentionally refusing good, experienced people even the most meagre pay rise simply because they refuse to give up legal entitlements and in knowledge of likely adverse equality impacts does not meet this definition. No doubt there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. If we ever receive one, we promise to publish that along with our reaction to it. Until then we remain of the strong view that actions like these leave people feeling abused and bullied, are abhorrent and forfeit moral authority.
An employer prepared to coerce its own people to get their own way cannot expect anyone to believe that they truly stand against bullying and harassment. It just doesn’t work. And when we meet the Permanent Secretary next month, we will be telling him so in terms.
We are asked often about legal challenge. The short answer is that the law just doesn’t provide the protection it should. It is not illegal to treat someone differently because of their terms and conditions of service. Immoral certainly but not illegal. It is illegal to treat people differently – without exceptional justification – for reasons associated with a ‘protected characteristic’ as defined in the Equality Act 2010. Those are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. So to bring a successful case, we would need to demonstrate that withholding the pay award disadvantages individuals who are unable to move to AHW terms and conditions because the effect of a protected characteristic prevents them. So, for example, someone with a disability who can’t work night hours but is refused an individual AHW contract respecting that need. Personal circumstances vary widely and hard truth is not all will raise a legal case with prospect of success. But we are very happy to consider any that might – by all means contact [email protected] and [email protected] if you think your circumstances might make a strong case.
In the meantime we will continue to press strongly both to end the mistreatment of AAA & SDA members and to see all of our people better rewarded for the fine work we do. We know your value even if your employer does not.
ISU National Chair