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30 March 2007

Reject regional pay

NEW PAY proposals in the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) mean a court usher in Bootle will be paid 2,000 more than an usher in Southport. 17,000 PCS members are affected by this drive to introduce local pay rates.

Kevin Greenway, DCA group executive and PCS national executive, personal capacity

The departmental merger in 2005 gave management an opportunity to develop a market-driven regional and local pay model and they have seized it with both hands. The model has not been developed in isolation, it is the music of the future for all departments unless we stand firm and resist it now.

Blair signalled the government's determination to push such models into the public sector when he announced the public-sector pay cap of 2.2% to the CBI in June 2006. His 2005 support for "pay coherence" now rings hollow.

The so-called DCA deal, which supposedly gives members an option as to whether they sign up to the deal or not, is no deal at all.

PCS seeks a transparent system with recognisable progression, full protection against inflation measured by RPI and consolidation of all pay increases.

DCA proposals cover the period 2007 - 2011. They link pay scales for large numbers of staff to local labour markets and individual performance. The department has abandoned the use of the tried and tested JEGS job evaluation scheme in favour of DCA logic. This will ultimately result in poorly equipped local managers determining what local market conditions prevail. The DCA aim to set up worker against worker in competition for diminishing resources.

The proposals include for most staff five regional pay ranges. Indicative pay ranges reveal that staff outside London will face 16-20% pay differences for doing the same work in different locations. Those in lower-paying areas will be deemed to be in areas of lesser economic activity!

Staff in bands A - D will be covered by a highly complex performance pay system linking annual inflationary increases and scale progress. 'A' being the highest pay scale.

Negotiators have opposed the scheme from the off. The strength of our opposition has resulted in 'improvements' in pay levels proposed for staff in bands E - F but any 'improvements' still only move staff up to civil service average pay levels for 2005!

Some are confronted with starting points of 11,726 in band F and 13,430 in E, progressing over four years to 14,300 and 17,000 respectively.

As one Lib Dem MP said at a recent Parliamentary drop-in session: " How can anyone live on that level of pay".

With inflation running at 4.4%, with 6,000 members facing a pay freeze for four years as their current pay will be above new scale maxima, and with the illusion of pay improvements, members face a stark choice.

The DCA group executive is recommending a 'No' vote in a ballot on acceptance or rejection of the deal. We seek a solid mandate to force the employer back into negotiations. Approached in the right way we can build on the excellent demonstrations of solidarity and willingness to fight in the magistrates' courts pay strike in December 2005 and on the 31 March civil service strike, where DCA members played a significant part in galvanising members across the union.

Commenting on the success of the 2005 action, a senior legal figure in the DCA, reflecting tensions between government and the judiciary, said: "You have given them a bloody nose, I suspect they may need to get another one".

DCA workers realise that while the millionaires prosper under this government those that provide key services to the public are forced to struggle to make ends meet. Eddie George's admission to a committee of MPs last week that the Bank of England deliberately kept interest rates low, knowing that more and more people would be tempted into huge debts will not be lost on public-sector workers.

Public-sector workers will increasingly grow to realise that the best way to defend their interests is in linking their struggles across public-sector unions. PCS led the way with the pensions dispute and can play that role again around pay.

The PCS national executive is considering calling a further one-day strike on 1 May. If called upon, members in DCA will support that action giving the employer the message: 'no deal'. Members will stand firm with other groups across the union. The gloves are off and we are ready to give the employer another bloody nose.

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