Enough is enough

Enough is enough!

  • Jobs under threat
  • Pay cut 16% in real terms
  • Privatisation threat continues
  • Draconian Performance Management and Sickness Absence Policies imposed
  • PCS reps and the workforce victimised


Background

Previous members’ briefings have outlined the assault by the Home Office on PCS members’ working lives. The challenges we face include:

Jobs

The Home Office is engaged in a programme to cuts jobs in all areas of the department. Almost a third of the workforce will have disappeared by 2015 under the current proposals. The employer has forced Periods of Reflection (called when compulsory redundancy appears unavoidable) in a number of areas and the threat of forced compulsory redundancy is looming closer. Meanwhile, the employer is continuing to mask staffing shortages with the use of overtime and panic redeployment measures, even in areas where work has been moved to in order to justify office closures elsewhere.

Pay

The Chancellor has announced that, on the back of a two year pay freeze, rises for the next two years will be limited to 1%. Given the rate of inflation over that period, members are facing a real terms reduction in their living standards of around 16%. The situation deteriorated further with the proposed rise in pension contributions from April. Workers in the Home Office are finding it an increasing struggle to survive. The employer has done nothing to address pay disparities caused by various Machinery of Government changes that now see members doing broadly the same job for wildly different pay rates.

Privatisation

HO/MB/10/12 advised members of the existence of another significant backlogs of cases in UKBA. It advised members that SERCO had offered their services for free for 6 months, and that two teams have been set up on this 6-month project; which can be summarised as UKBA versus SERCO. This is the same SERCO that left a terrible mess behind in Casework Resolution Directorate that our members subsequently had to clear it. The same company has now been brought into the Border Force operation to staff Cyclamen machinery, which tests for radioactivity. In an extremely worrying development, it has been brought to the attention of PCS that the department are now planning to privatise massive chunks of work currently undertaken by our members’ in caseworking areas across the country today. The attacks on members’ pensions at national level are clearly designed to make it cheaper for the government to sell off large chunks of the public sector so that their friends in the city can make a fat profit. Our members in the Home Office are directly in the line of fire. Privatisation has always resulted in job cuts, poorer pay and attacks on terms and conditions.

Performance management

In April 2012, the employer imposed a new Performance Management System. The new system will include an element of moderation that will see an arbitrary percentage of staff marked as “must improve”, even when their manager perceives that there are no problems with their performance. At the same time, the employer has introduced a streamlined 3-stage performance management process which goes from stage 1 to dismissal in 6 months. The employer is clearly preparing the ground to meet its job cuts targets by sacking workers without having to pay any redundancy money.

Attendance management policy

Changes to the Attendance Management policy with came into effect in March 2012 in the core Home Office, UKBA, Border Force and CRB. The new policy includes the removal of the ‘serious underlying medical condition’ exemption, added emphasis on ‘supporting staff back to work’ through a variety of informal measures, Work Based Discussions’ between managers and staff on sick leave, to ascertain their fitness or otherwise to work and ‘Senior Managers Discretion’ to replace ‘Directors Discretion’ – essentially a different form of delegated authority to consider discretion. The changes to HR policies are a cynical attempt to reduce headcounts through sacking workers without having to pay them any redundancy.

Victimisation of PCS Reps and the workforce

Previous members’ briefings detailed the sackings of PCS reps Mark Hammond and Sue Kendal on what we believe were trumped up charges. Further cases have now appeared on the horizon. It is clear that the employer is targeting key PCS reps who have provided vocal opposition to their attacks on our membership. Indeed, a general culture of victimization is now prevalent in large areas of the workforce, with works operating in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.

Negotiations

PCS has tabled to the employer the issues of dispute between us and set out the assurances we are seeking. They include:

Jobs

  • Proper negotiations leading to an agreed redundancy policy
  • A guarantee of no compulsory redundancies in any event
  • A guarantee of no compulsory relocations
  • A guarantee that those staff remaining will not be expected to deliver the workload of their departed colleagues through increased targets
  • A guarantee that the working of significant amounts of overtime will cease and that full negotiations will take place with PCS on any proposals to offer overtime
  • A properly resourced department of permanent employees that is capable of meeting its public service obligations.

Pay

  • Serious negotiations and progress on PCS proposals to address low pay and the disparities and inequities caused by delegated pay bargaining in the Home Sector

Privatisation
No privatisation without a negotiated agreement with PCS that provides adequate protections for our members, including:

  • A guarantee of no compulsory redundancies as a result of the privatization
  • a guarantee of redeployment into meaningful work within the Home Office prior to any privatization and the retention of Civil Service status
  • a guarantee of no unagreed changes to terms and conditions of employment
  • Adherence to the national protocols on managing the people consequences of outsourcing

Performance management
Proper negotiations on performance management and a guarantee that any such system:

  • Will not include an arbitrary percentage of staff marked as “must improve”
  • Will not include a streamlined 3-stage performance management process which goes from stage 1 to dismissal in 6 months
  • Will not include an “expectation they [staff] should be dismissed at stage 3”
  • Will include an informal stage of the process

Sickness absence
Proper negotiation on an Attendance Management Policy and a guarantee that any such policy:

  • Does not include mandatory warnings and trigger points
  • Adequately protects disabled staff and the severely ill
  • Gives line managers appropriate discretion in the framework of consistently applied guidance
  • Is supported by a framework of management support through effective OHS referrals, reasonable adjustments and a safe working environment.

Victimisation

  • A guarantee that the acts of victimization against PCS reps will be overturned and will cease
  • Negotiations on industrial relations an end to the atmosphere of intimidation and fear imposed on the workforce

Numerous meetings and exchanges of correspondence have taken place with the employer on all these issues, but there has been little substantial movement.

Industrial action ballot
In the absence of the guarantees and assurances we are seeking from management on the key issues facing members, and their insistence on imposing significant detrimental changes to our members’ working lives, PCS has no alternative but to ballot our members on a campaign of industrial action to protect their interests. We have today served notice on the employer that we intend to ballot our members in Criminal Records Bureau, Home Office HQ (including Border Force), Identity and Passport Service and the UK Border Agency.

Ballot questions
Members are asked two questions in the ballot:

  • Are you prepared to take part in strike action?
  • Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike?

PCS recommends that members Vote yes to both questions.

Type and duration of action
All members will be asked to take some strike action and some action short of a strike. However, that action is likely to differ from time to time and from place to place, depending upon where you work and on developments as the dispute unfolds.

Whatever action is called, we will try to ensure as far as possible that all members to make the same contribution. This contribution will be in the form of both industrial action and financial donation. In respect of both, members will be asked to sacrifice a maximum of three days pay over a four month period.

Action that you may be asked to take part in as part of action short of a strike could include, for example,:

  • Taking part in an overtime ban
  • Taking full breaks
  • Refusing to work outside your contracted hours

Levy
The GEC intend that this campaign will take a more targeted approach to strike action. In order to try to sustain paid strike action in areas of maximum industrial and political impact, we are recommending members to take part in a levy to raise funds for this purpose. As a minimum, we will be asking members to contribute:

  • AA’s - a minimum of £1 per month
  • AO’s - a minimum of £2 per month
  • EO’s - a minimum of £3 per month
  • HEO’s - a minimum of £4 per month
  • SEO’s - a minimum of £5 per month
  • Grade 7s and above - a minimum of £6 per month

A Yes/Yes vote in the ballot will be taken as members agreeing to the establishment of the levy.

Ballot Timetable

The ballot will open on 15 June 2012 and will close on 4 July 2012. Ballot papers will be sent by post to members’ nominated ballot address (usually your home address). If you have not had a ballot paper by 22 June 2012 please contact Tara Blackman on 0207 801 2625 or at tarabl@pcs.org.uk

Vote Yes/Yes

PCS urges all members to vote yesto both questions. It is vital that we send the employer a clear signal of our intent to stand united to defend our interests, and to improve our leverage at the bargaining table.

Secure your future

Stand togather

Vote Yes/Yes


If you require this publication in any other format please contact the ID1 Group office on tel 020 7801 2625, email id1homesector@pcs.org.uk and this service can be arranged for you.


Paul O’Connor
Group Secretary
 

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