If the world was fair, the only thing we would need to persuade the government to give its own workers a decent pay rise, would be the undeniable evidence that the value of our pay has plummeted by thousands of pounds since 2010; while in that same period, the Members of Parliament who make up that same government have seen MP’s basic pay increase by nearly £14,000.
Sadly, the world isn’t fair; and after nearly a decade of pay freezes and pay caps, we are being told on the one hand that the pay cap has been lifted, but on the other, the only way we can get a decent pay increase is if we surrender beneficial terms and conditions of service.
As trade union members, our first choice will always to be to try to reach agreement through amicable negotiations with the employer. Unfortunately, when the employer refuses to be reasonable, we have no choice but to explore all options at our disposal.
In the second quarter of 2010 there were 481,000 civil servants employed in Whitehall departments. Even after the last minute panic Brexit recruitment, in the third quarter of 2018 the number stood at just 404,000. You can add to this the fact that the grades seeing the biggest cuts have been the lower grades, with EO-AA cuts running between 20-40% in just seven years.
Clearly, with staff numbers having fallen so far, all departments are more reliant than ever on maximising the output of the staff they have; and any move by our members to reduce or even stop doing the work we do, will have an even greater impact on the employer’s ability to deliver the service; and thinking parochially, Brexit could well lead to the biggest increase in HMRC’s workload since 1992. Simply put, because they’ve cut the staffing as much as they have, the staff that are still here have the real industrial leverage necessary to force the employer to be reasonable.
PCS is by far the largest trade union in Whitehall. If we stand together in the national pay campaign, we can make real progress on achieving fair pay; and in HMRC, a strong vote on pay sends a signal to the department that we can deliver on fighting office closures as well. In HMRC we bring in the finance that funds every aspect of government, so remember how important our work is; remember the impact we can have, and remember that when it’s needed – action works.