Pay and 'Contract Reform': Why ‘paying for your own pay rise’ is not acceptable

13 Aug 2019
  • HMRC imposes pay deal skewed towards the better paid
  • Unacceptable ‘cutting conditions for pay’ proposals passed to PCS
  • Union stands firm in defence of hard-won conditions of service

PCS have written to management to reject their unbalanced pay offer for 2019, which will see the lowest paid grades receive as little as £360 and the already-better paid receive up to £1,410. HMRC have confirmed that they plan to impose the offer and implement it in September pay. This means that the most junior grades in the department will be falling even further behind, and next April is likely to see around 12,000 HMRC staff being paid the absolute minimum they can legally be paid.

Work longer, get less?

In advance of a meeting with HMRC management to discuss future pay arrangements, PCS became aware of a document that was circulating within the department, which set out a possible pay offer, under the department’s ‘pay and contract reform’ plans. Having initially had sight of, and then receiving a copy of the document, PCS were disappointed to discover that the department’s thinking is in the direction of a 15% increase spread over three years (with that figure being devalued, in each successive year, by the rate of inflation); and on the proviso that members agree major cuts in their conditions of service, including:

  • Working longer hours
  • The working week involving members working one weekend in four, with no mention of premium payments
  • The working week involving members working one evening in four, with no mention of premium payments
  • Ending overtime premium payments for weekends or evenings, with the default position being that members will just get Time Off in Lieu (TOIL)
  • Removing unsocial hours payments
  • Replacing on-call payments with TOIL
  • Cuts in the mileage allowance rate
  • Limiting banked leave and leave carryover.

PCS demands disclosure

In the intervening time, some of this material has been quoted by members of staff on the department’s internal message boards, and so clearly ‘the jig is up’ as they say; and PCS have demanded full disclosure on the department’s proposals, as part of any discussions going forward. At the time of writing, other than a timetable for consulting business leads, negotiations and implementation, we have had no such disclosure.

Fair pay, properly funded

PCS in HMRC are totally committed to the national union’s campaign for fair pay; and we believe that future pay rises should be properly funded, rather than expecting hard-working and under-pressure members to pay for their own pay rise, by working longer hours and accepting worse conditions of service. We will continue to meet with management to press our case, with the caveat that our group conference policy is clear about PCS not accepting detrimental changes to terms and conditions.

Survey and Focus Groups

As we’ve already informed members, HMRC recently issued a survey to staff without consultation with your union, which basically tried to encourage members to ‘pick your favourite terms and conditions’. The subtext presumably being that the department will look to cut the ones that don’t get as many votes.

Although management agreed to pause the survey to allow us to comment; and although they have altered some of the language a little, the general thrust of the questioning is unchanged; and if you look at the line of questioning in the survey, it’s not difficult to see the link between the specific questions being asked and the specific terms and conditions mentioned in the leaked document.

All of our terms and conditions are hard-won; and all of them are vital to someone in the department. Whilst we can’t prevent the department from launching some kind of distasteful ‘beauty contest’ involving our conditions of service, and if you do wish to participate, what we can do is to issue guidance to members to support you through the process.

Likewise we’ll be issuing guidance on membership participation in the ‘Focus Groups’ management are holding. These are groups which historically have involved staff hand-picked by the department, and they have been used by the employer as a means of obtaining a predetermined point of view from a small group of people, and then trying to present that point of view to the wider workforce as being popular opinion. Remember how they tried to sell PMR as something the staff had asked for!

The only way to really have your say

Most if not all of the changes in the management document are contractual, and would require the agreement of members of PCS, your recognised trade union, to be changed. This fact was openly accepted by senior management in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), when they put a similar pay offer to their staff last year, and where MoJ staff were told by the department:

“You will be able to vote to either accept or reject the offer if you are a member of one of MoJ’s recognised trade unions. Even if you aren’t a union member, the result of the ballots will still apply to you, so everyone should be clear about what the offer will mean for them, personally.”

Following the MoJ’s ‘offer’, staff across the department immediately recognised the importance of having their say in the defence of their terms and conditions of service; and hundreds of them immediately joined PCS, so they could ensure that they had joined the fight to defend those conditions. Having done so, a ballot of members took place and management’s plans were overwhelmingly rejected, meaning that those hard-won conditions were protected.

The message is clear. Only by being a member of PCS will you have a voice. Joining is easy. You can join online at https://join.pcs.org.uk, by calling 0207 801 2670, or by contacting your local PCS representative. Join now, and be part of the campaign for fair pay and conditions.

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