This is our first edition since the pay ballot. The national result was a disappointment to all of us. Members and reps put a huge amount of work into delivering the 50% turnout threshold that the anti-trade union legislation demands. Nationwide over 130,000 phone calls were made to members and 42,500 conversations were logged by reps.
Ultimately, we fell short, achieving 47.7% turnout with a 4-1 vote in favour of action. This means that we were just under 3,000 votes short of our target. Here in the Home Office group we achieved a 48% turnout meaning for our part we missed 50% by only 300 votes. Having been a member in the Home Office for several years, I know we have never achieved a turnout like that and the levels of anger about pay are palpable.
While we managed a great turnout, the ballot exposed the amount of work we still need to do. The result and future tactics were discussed at our national conference. Delegates backed the NEC's emergency motion about the national campaign.
Along with campaigning against the anti-trade union laws, using any other campaigning and legal methods to attack the civil service pay cap, we are looking to launch another aggregated national ballot. The timing of this will be determined by the NEC.
In the Home Office, we are acutely aware that our pay award will be limited by the Treasury pay guidance and lack of funds from the government. The signs don’t look promising, with the only potential for an increase linked to detrimental changes in terms and conditions.
I believe that it’s the right decision to maintain our unified national campaign against the Treasury’s cap. However, before we relaunch any ballot there is plenty of work to do to convince our colleagues why they should be angry about their pay, why they should vote in our ballots, and why they should get involved in our union.
One of the changes brought in with the new Alpha pension scheme was a valuation process every four years. This was brought in to maintain affordability and ensure that the pension was delivered within a specific cost cap for the government.
The cost cap process stipulates that, if the valuation shows an employer cost of more than 2% above or below the employer cost cap figure, then steps must be taken to rectify the breach and restore the employer cost cap figure to the target amount. The steps to be taken can include changes to members’ contributions and/or changing pension benefits.
In 2018, the first valuation in the 4-year cycle since the imposed pension reforms was completed, a downward breach of the cost cap of 5.4% was declared.
Had this proceeded members could have expected to gained:
- Reduced contributions of at least 2% later this year.
- Increased accrual rate for Alpha pensions.
- Improved death-in-service benefits for most members.
However, in an act of betrayal the government has decided not to make changes beneficial to our members and instead suspend the process of valuation. This is a deeply cynical move and had the valuation demonstrated a shortfall in our contributions I expect there would have been no delay in increases to our contributions.
Civil Service Compensation Scheme
Following a long-running saga over changes to the compensation scheme, including a successful judicial review reversing changes, it now looks like changes are afoot. The Cabinet Office has now written to PCS with the terms they intend to impose. These bear remarkable similarities to those that were initially imposed and then withdrawn in 2016.
While we are facing below-inflation pay rises, the government is intent on ripping us off via our pension contributions and also slashing our compensation payments designed to protect us in event of redundancy.
We need to make sure members are aware that their rights and money are being unfairly cut. We need to continue building, and make sure that when we next ballot we are in a position to win. We can then deliver action that demonstrates to the government that we have had enough and deserve to be treated with respect.