Highways England pay ballot opens 8 April

03 Apr 2019

PCS members at Highways England are set to be balloted on industrial action over pay from Monday (8) to 29 April.

Highways England imposed a 1% pay offer on its staff from 1 January and the government-owned company plans to cap pay at 1% every year until 2025 under its second roads investment strategy.

This comes after staff have faced a three-year pay freeze and a seven-year 1% pay cap. Senior staff meanwhile have enjoyed increasingly high pay increases, with the CEO Jim O’Sullivan, now earning three times as much as his predecessor over £400,000 a year, or £1,103 a day, up from £366,868 last year; a rise of 9.7% and the pay bill for executive directors having almost doubled in four years.

Freedom Of Information requests from PCS have revealed a huge increase in senior grade numbers earning above £100,000 a year, the vast majority male, and not subject to the pay cap. In the meantime, more and more senior managers have been recruited at over £100,000; we know that around £5.4 million of extra funding has been found since 2013 when the privatisation of HA was first proposed.

Chairman of the board Colin Matthews is paid £130,000 for attending 34 meetings a year; £3,823 per meeting.

Now is the opportunity for HE members to send the strongest possible message to the employer that enough is enough. The agency has continued the de-facto 1% pay cap, despite not being subject to the pay remit guidance which ties government departments to 1.5% pay cap.

Broken promises

This pay policy runs contrary to promises made to staff. Before civil servants working for the Highways Agency were forcibly transferred from the civil service into Highways England, they were told by senior management that one of the benefits would be flexibility on pay, such as no longer being subject to public sector pay caps. It also runs contrary to the assurances of both the prime minister and chancellor that austerity was over. To make matters worse this latest ‘offer’ means that these staff are removed from pay harmonisation with colleagues elsewhere in the Department for Transport who are now receiving a 1.5% pay rise, this is a breach of contract from the Modernised Employment Contract that DfT brought in in 2014.

In addition, management has also twice proposed a new pay and grading structure that would mean junior staff were paid even less than currently, while the earning potential was furthered transferred to the top of the company. Rather than pay negotiations, pay levels would be ‘set’, in other words imposed by management’s chosen pay consultants, a company that is not even UK based.

We have attempted to impress on Highways England the need to negotiate a fair rise with PCS and examine its whole approach by paying hard-working staff properly. Having given them ample opportunity in this area, which they have rejected out of hand, we have no choice but to ballot for targeted industrial action in Highways England and force HE management to take these issues seriously.

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