Many DWP members already suffered either a pay freeze or a below inflation increase under the previous Labour administration, and soon faced even further detriment as the Tory-lead coalition imposed the public sector pay cap. The 1% across the board cap plunged our, already, low paid members in to further financial crisis and saw a staggering 40% of DWP staff having to claim Tax Credits to supplement their low wages.
For decades members in DWP had already watched their pay fall below, not only, their aspirations as government employees, but also below that of fellow civil servants in other departments and workers in comparable roles in other sectors.
DWP, the department responsible for administering the social security system to financially support some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society, was overseeing a period where members of their own workforce were falling in to that very category.
It is hardly surprising that years of pay restraint was beginning to invoke a response from our members in DWP.
By 2015 thousands of our members were demanding something was done about their pay and, lead by the group executive committee, magnificently supported the campaign to write to departmental ministers, showing their anger at the continuing pay restraint and demanding better pay and an end to the cap.
From this campaign employee deal was born and 2016 saw the group executive embark on the widest ever consultation with branches and members it had ever undertaken.
Members support for that campaign had delivered the largest pay offer in DWP for decades, with the vast majority of staff receiving pay awards way above the cap and the introduction of a spot rate for grades AA-HEO for the first time.
Fast forward 2 years, and 46% of our members are campaigning again, having voted in last Autumn’s national consultative ballot, overwhelmingly rejecting the government’s continuing pay cap and supporting the call for the national union to consider taking its first national industrial action on pay since 2013.
The turnout was the largest the group had ever delivered in a pay ballot, and was part of the biggest ever turnout in a national PCS pay ballot.
Catherine Garvey, member
Why do DWP members still feel so strongly?
The group executive was clear at the time that more still needed to be done on pay and no one should doubt that our aim, for a decent pay rise for all our members, is impossible while the government still impose pay restrictions on department’s across the civil service.
What about other members who did well out of employee deal?
It would be a mistake for anyone to think that the larger increases negotiated in 2016 complete our aspirations for those members who fared better out of ED.
The group Executive is as determined now as it has always been, to ensure that all PCS members receive a decent, above inflation, pay rise. It is simply not acceptable for our members to carry on being paid at lower rates than many of their colleagues, and significantly below other sectors for similar type work. It is not over the top to say our members provide an emergency service for the millions in this country who find themselves out of work, or in low paid jobs, and who need to fall back on the safety net that is social security provision.
It is only right that the dedication of our members, who provide these vital services to the public, are rewarded for their commitment every bit as much as other public servants.
It is this premise that should focus all our efforts in to ensuring all of our members get a fair pay deal that lifts them out of poverty and improves their quality of life.
69% of staff who recently completed the department’s wellness survey, stated they had experienced financial difficulties in the last 12 months. That figure tells its own story and explains why we need to continue campaigning for decent pay for members across DWP.
What can you do?
The national executive committee has just agreed to continue its national campaign and intends to consult members and work with branches ahead of debating the strategy and next steps at our annual conference in May.
This should be seen as the next step in the campaign, and is expected to be a precursor to a national statutory ballot of all members covered by the UK civil service in early summer.
A resounding result in the ballot, breaking the 50% threshold, is critical if we are to mount the sort of campaign that will put the necessary pressure on this weak and divided government, and the support of members in DWP, will be crucial if we are to deliver a successful ballot result and subsequent action.
The aims of the pay claim, submitted across government departments, including, a pay increase of 5% or £1200 for all members, on top of any increase gained through employee deal; a return to national pay bargaining, and extra funding from the government to pay for the increases, are not excessive demands. They are the least our members deserve and are affordable in the 6th richest economy in the world, and from a government who can always afford tax breaks for their rich benefactors.
It is vital that we obtain additional funding to pay for these increases if we are to protect the services we provide, and safeguard our members jobs, while producing above inflation pay increases that you, our members, so thoroughly deserve.
The stakes couldn't be higher. Failure to get fully behind this campaign will see the continuation of pay restraint across the civil service, and DWP members will remain worse off than other colleagues. If, on the other hand, we generate the level of support we need, we can address our immediate concerns on low pay and set in train the conditions that could lead to a long awaited return to national pay bargaining and parity of pay across the civil service. That has to be a goal worth fighting and sacrificing for.
Your campaigning forced the DWP to the negotiating table and the Treasury to release extra money to pay for the employee deal pay rises. Now let's go that extra step and get behind the national pay campaign and the statutory ballot and deliver an end to low pay in DWP for good.