MoJ PAY 2018 – meeting with the employer on 27 September
A joint communication has been sent out to all trade union members after our meeting with MOJ chief people officer Dr Neil Wooding. On 27 September we again met the employer to discuss MEP and explore our concerns around the employer’s handling of MEP, so as to inform future talks. While unions were united in rejecting MEP, there were principles which we supported (such as addressing low pay and pay inequality) and we wish these to be covered in future talks.
One major concern was that unions had not been given sight of the business rationale. It was recognised that unions could add useful insight into what kind of deal might be acceptable to their members, as well as what could lead to rejection.
We had not been involved in drafting the MEP business case and it was completed and submitted before the full scope of MEP became apparent (eg staff affected by Functional Leadership). We believe that early involvement would have led to an improved version of MEP, even if some parts were withheld from us. We made it clear that we wish to have early engagement in future and that we would have desired more involvement with the MEP business case and workforce planning documentation (also requested previously).
Each union set out its red lines, including extending working hours. Yet unions remained committed to staying in the talks in the hope that some more palatable deal for our members could be brokered.
MEP originally included plans to split band A into grades 6 and 7. Unions argued that this should be dealt with separately from MEP and this was accepted, but it still caused problems as some Band A staff would not know if they would be disadvantaged under MEP.
Learning from the MEP experience, we made it clear that in any future negotiations we would want to see:
- an improved meeting schedule
- an improvement in information sharing
- improvements in testing products (we were not given the opportunity to test the pay calculator)
During the ballot phase PCS was blamed for delaying MEP - this was disappointing as it was not the case. The employer was given early notification of PCS’s intention to hold a national ballot on pay, but the employer was still working on MEP after this ballot closed and we were kept waiting for confirmation of the final offer.
One reason for the delay was that the employer issued a second embargo until it had briefed SCS staff. This had not been factored into the timeline and, in the case of FDA, meant that information was released by the union just one hour before its first members’ meeting.
The decision to impose this second embargo several hours after the first one was lifted was of concern to all unions. The employer then decided that members should not see the full offer letter, but instead receive a redacted version (reduced from 66 pages to 10). We believe this damaged the employer’s reputation.
The handling of communications to staff was of concern from the outset. We made it clear that communications should be agreed by those with a full understanding of negotiations.
We found it completely unacceptable that functional leadership staff should suddenly discover they were in scope of MEP via a brief entry on the intranet. HMPPS staff had previously received formal letters from the employer about their terms and conditions and the same should have happened before MEP talks began. Unions repeatedly asked for clarity around staff affected by Functional Leadership, but this became another item to add to the growing list of things which the employer would come back to us about.
Communications on the intranet about the deal were evolving and changing after the supposedly “Final Offer” had been signed off, showing an apparent disregard for negotiations with the unions. By this time, we feel the employer had lost all credibility and staff were openly referring to the various communications as “MoJ propaganda”.
This meeting was intended to be an opportunity for unions to not just share our concerns about the MEP deal, but also the way in which it had been handled by the employer. Union negotiators regularly meet the employer across a range of different topics, not just pay. While it is our role to represent our members, and this may mean taking an opposing position to employer’s, there has previously been respect and trust on both sides when attempting to reach agreement.
While some of the issues around MEP had the potential to damage these relationships, the trade union side and the employer’s side remain committed towards re-establishing the previous working relationship. The employer has listened to our concerns and we believe we have been heard. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the judicial review before talks start again, but we are committed to having a continuing dialogue to work with the employer to get the best deal possible for all our members.