Our Fairness at Work Campaign Charter calls for:
A quality public service
In 2010, the Conservative-led coalition government announced massive cuts in public spending, as part of its ‘Austerity’ programme; with key areas of the Home Office facing cuts of around one-third. This resulted in huge numbers of staff in the Home Office being released on voluntary severance and early retirement. Unsurprisingly, the cuts in staffing only led to massive backlogs and growing queues at the borders.
The PCS dispute in the summer of 2012 led to hundreds of additional staff being employed at the borders; and recruitment in a number of areas across the then Identity and Passport Service (now known as HM Passport Office). However staffing in other areas remains totally
inadequate and the case working backlogs have been described by the House of Commons Select Committee as ‘bigger than the population of Iceland’. The department is desperately attempting to stem the tide by the mass-hiring of agency staff and the widespread use of overtime.
The use of agency staff and overtime is nothing more than short-sighted; and does nothing to address the ongoing need for adequate staff numbers. Furthermore employing agency staff and paying overtime rates is vastly more expensive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. This waste is compounded by the fact that some of the agency workers hired by the Home Office are former staff who the department has already paid to leave on voluntary redundancy terms.
PCS calls on the department to end the use of agency staff by offering those staff the opportunity to apply for permanent posts; and to end the routine use of overtime as a staffing substitute.
Many staff across the core Home Office, Passport Office, Disclosure and Barring Service and Gangmasters Licensing Authority have been subject to years of pay restraint, with the rising cost of living meaning a real-term pay cut for members.
As part of a harmonisation and coherence agenda PCS have been able to negotiate a settlement for 2013/14 for members who were entitled to contractual progression. This means that the lowest paid members of staff in the department or anyone joining the Home Office will be on a pay rate that is well above the minimum wage with spot rates near to the level of the UK living wage rate. This also saw members at the EO grade and above getting at least a 2.65% fully consolidated pay rise (if below the maximum of the pay range) plus a 7.65% non-consolidated buy-out of the contractual progress rights. The new pay structure means that there is more parity between former revenue & customs staff as well as new starters and promotees.
We recognise the impact on those without contractual pay progression and have been campaigning for pay harmonisation between members working in the Passport Office and their Home Office colleagues. As well as real-term pay cuts; these members have seen consecutive increases in their pension contributions – further hitting their take home pay. Further, our members reduced spending power impacts negatively on our economy. The decision to allow government departments to set their own pay rates has resulted in Home Office workers being paid less than many of their counterparts elsewhere in Whitehall.
PCS calls on the department to enter into real negotiations with our Union to end the scourge of low pay in the Home Office; and to ensure that all members have a reasonable prospect of progression to the maximum of their pay range.
The imposition of the inaptly named ‘moderation’ policy, the unjust system which allows management to rate staff as ‘lower’ on spurious and subjective behavioural grounds – even if they are meeting all their productivity targets – highlights the direction that Home Office personnel policies are going.
Additionally, the way that the sick absence management policy is being applied, is resulting in an increasing number of members receiving warnings or facing dismissal - even those members of staff with disabilities or whose absences were gender-specific. PCS Branches in the Home Office are also reporting an increase in the number of misconduct investigations they are dealing with; indicating that the department is becoming more draconian in the way that minor breaches of procedure are handled.
PCS calls on the department to work with our Union to develop fair personnel policies, which can be objectively and consistently applied; rather than policies aimed at a predetermined outcome of punishing the workforce for being sick; sanctioning minor acts of misconduct rather than dealing with them informally; or subjectively categorising our members as ‘Must Improve’.
The increasing use of private companies to undertake Home Office work threatens all our jobs. Where once management used to claim that only support functions were being considered for privatisation, the fact that the private sector has already been brought into parts of the Home Office to undertake both case working duties and even some Border Force work, means that no-one’s job is safe.
As public servants, the first duty of members of staff in the Home Office is to the general public and to Parliament; the first duty of private companies is to their shareholders. As a result, private companies are primarily geared around profit-making rather than serving the public.
When public sector work is privatised, employment law demands that staff who transfer to the private company maintain their contractual terms and conditions of service. Therefore it’s no surprise that when the government cuts our pay; cuts our conditions of service; and increases our pension contributions, it makes it cheaper for private companies to take on our work.
PCS calls on the department to protect high quality public services by ending the inefficient use of private contractors to undertake Home Office work whilst reaching job security agreements for our members who have already been transferred to the private sector.
In little more than two years, four PCS representatives have been sacked by the Home
Office; and at least six more of our Trade Union representatives have been subjected to disciplinary investigations.
The problem is not limited to Trade Union representatives: for example, the department’s own findings show that 24% of UK Border Agency respondents – nearly a quarter – either admitted that they had experienced bullying and harassment at work or were ‘not prepared to say’.
Even worse, those same findings show that 28% of the same respondents either admitted that they had experienced discrimination at work or were ‘not prepared to say’. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the department responsible for equal opportunities.
PCS calls upon the department to work with our Union to reverse the current culture of victimisation, bullying and harassment in the Home Office.