A Ministry of Justice question and answer session on the modernising employment proposition attempted to put a positive spin on the plans, PCS outlines our response to some of the questions posed.
Richard Heaton, MoJ permanent secretary, Susan Acland-Hood, chief executive of HMCTS and Neil Wooding, MoJ chief people officer were involved in the video Q&A last week and answered the following questions:
“How can this be classed as a pay rise, when my pay rise will just be paying me for the extra hour I have to work?”
PCS recognises that 84% of staff will receive a pay increase under MEP. For the lowest paid staff the increase is significant and is something we worked hard to achieve in the pay negotiations with the employers representatives. However, on average the offer is only worth around 11% over 5 years, and for some staff the offer actually means a pay cut.
The basic problem with the MEP offer is that the government has only provided MoJ with enough money to increase pay an overall increase of 1% per year. The rest of the offer has to be funded by cutting the pay of some staff and the terms and conditions of all.
The MoJ Q&A said that members need to think about what this really means for them in their working life and we agree. They said if members really do work exactly their contracted hours and one more hour (a week) is going to make a difference to them, then it’s perfectly legitimate to look at their hourly rate.
And members who have contacted PCS have done just that and have worked out that the increases amount to very little in terms of their hourly rate, 3p for some 9p for others.
Becky says over 5 years her hourly rate will have risen by 90p.
“There will still be people doing exactly the same job as me, often for less time, on much more. So it’s I’m voting no,” she says.
Another member Callum says he’ll be voting against the proposals as he’ll receive a 2.2% average pay increase for working 2.7% more hours a week.
“That’s before you look at the conditions being eroded away,” he says.
The MoJ say it will phase in the increase in weekly hours incrementally by an hour each year as for them “as it’s about managing that process flexibly but it is about lifting up productivity at the same time.”
This comes from a department where unpaid overtime has become a significant issue caused by staffing shortages and where staff have had to drastically increase their workloads over the past decades as their colleagues have been made redundant and many courts and offices have been closed. So it’s unrealistic and somewhat insulting to talk about increasing productivity for already overworked staff.
A fairly curious question answered in the Q&A said: “I can’t see why people are down on this deal, everyone gets ‘worse’ terms and conditions so it completely fits with the value of together.”
The department responded to describe the proposal as a “very good, hard won, pay deal for the vast majority of our people.
PCS does not believe it is a very good deal, it is over too long a period of time and asks members to sacrifice their terms and conditions and possibly work Saturdays and bank holidays as ‘normal days’ as part of their regular 5-day rota with greatly reduced overtime.
For many people this simply isn’t practicable and falls way short of the PCS pay claim.
The department is asking members to be grateful at the prospect of receiving their first proper consolidated pay rise for 8 years and boasts that most people will get 3% in the first 3 years of the proposal but as inflation is forecast to be between 2.4% between now and 2020 this amounts to very little in real terms in return for an increased working hours.
A view echoed by member Michelle who says: “It works out with the extra hour about a 1% increase and for some 0.6% and years 3/4/5 no increase at all. Also changing terms and conditions so staff can be asked to work early mornings/ late nights and Saturday. Reducing overtime pay due to these hours then being contracted hours. That’s how they reward loyal staff? Even 1% is better than this offer. Vote no,” she says.
“Why can only union members vote?”
The MOJ says “Well those are the rules of collective negotiation, we collectively negotiate with our recognised trade unions and for this deal to become part of terms and conditions.”
So don’t delay, you have until 23 August to join PCS and be eligible to vote and decide on your future. You can apply to join online today, it only takes a couple of minutes. As by far the largest union involved in the ballot our members’ hold sway in the ballot so vote no when the ballot opens on 15 August.
“What happens if MEP doesn’t go through?”
The MOJ says if the deal is not agreed by members “we will return to that cycle of very low pay increases”.
However, even a quick glance at the offer tells us that the offer could be improved without this. For example the offer could be shortened. A significant amount of money has been earmarked for recognition and reward. PCS would prefer this money spent on consolidated pay for all members and to ensure no member takes a pay cut. MoJ could also sit down with PCS and look again at the terms and conditions changes.
In any case PCS will continue our campaign to secure a fair pay rise and decent wages for all PCS members against a government policy that has suppressed pay rises for 8 years between 0 and 1.5%. Our members deserve better than this proposed deal.
“I work 35 hours a week at the moment, and I don’t want to move to 38. Do I have to?”
The MoJ says you have a choice and if you don’t want to increase your hours you can stay at 35 but your pay will be prorated so you will get 35:38s of the total pay but that’s absolutely an option that remains. So effectively you will have your pay cut by preserving your current work-life balance, which is very important to many staff who have caring responsibilities who might be forced to go part-time or even leave the MoJ as a result.
The MOJ says it values togetherness
They say they’ve come up with a deal that they think is fair and progressive that rewards their excellent staff and helps to modernise the organisation.
PCS member Adrian strongly disagrees and says he is being asked to “sacrifice his terms and conditions” for an increase in his hourly rate of 90p over 5 years.
“It’s an absolute insult - they must think we are so blinded by the 9% carrot that we are prepared to walk over the cliff edge to follow it,” he said.
“It’s about time we voted with our feet and showed them that we deserve decent pay rises with no slashing of employee rights like other public sector workers have been given. Why should we always be the poor relations?
But, as the department says, it’s now over to you, please make your voice heard and vote no in the PCS ballot, which runs until 30 August, to oppose this attack on your terms and conditions.
If you have registered a personal email address with PCS you will be sent instructions about how to vote online, which you can do until 2pm on 30 August. If you don’t have a registered personal email address you will receive your ballot paper by post and you must return your ballot paper by Tuesday 23, August.
What you can do
- Vote no in the ballot
- Attend a PCS meeting – we are planning to organise members’ meetings at every office in the next month
- Encourage non-members to join PCS. If you join by 23 August you will be able to vote in this ballot if you register a personal email address.