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Pay 2016

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More PAY cuts

By now members will have seen their online pay statements for the “merry” month of April. In a breathtaking leap of staff engagement everyone has LESS in their pocket from the month before. It was, of course, anticipated that the changes in the National Insurance rebate would adversely affect take home pay – to quote:

“These reforms mean that contracting-out of the additional State Pension for Defined Benefit schemes will come to an end. Currently most public sector defined benefit pension schemes are contracted-out. The main implication of this reform for scheme members is that from 6 April they will no longer receive the National Insurance (NI) rebate. This will mean an increase in employee NI contributions of around 1.4% of earnings between the relevant NI thresholds, set each year by HM Treasury. The reforms are being introduced on 6 April 2016 and employees will see the change in NI Contribution payments after that date.”

For more information:

NI Changes.PDF

What these neglect to tell you is:

See the section midway down the first page – the employer loses a 3.4% rebate. Obviously this will impact here:

Read and weep

So even with the increase in Personal Tax Allowances, hard working HMRC personnel have a PAY CUT with the prospect of more to come. We have members who have not received a pensionable consolidated PAY INCREASE for 10 years. We have suffered pay freezes and 1% average pay increases coupled with draconian increases to pension contributions ( and a new scheme that is derisory ) over that period in which inflation ( despite the very recent period of lower inflation ) averaged well above the 2% Bank of England target meaning our real pay has been dramatically cut. We enforce the collection of tax for pity’s sake – austerity? Whatever happened to the saying that your pension was your deferred pay from being used by successive Governments as the weapon of choice for pay restraint? …so 20th century one supposes.

Add to the toxic mix the proposed changes – and in nearly 20 locations staff ( and much much more to come – but more on the topic of Regional locations in another article) have had to have 1-2-1 conversations about moving/leaving and an appraisal system that is… onerous is far too polite a way of describing it and you have morale at an all time low. Yes that statement is used too often but the toxicity of the mix is about to get much worse. Serious issues and concerns raised by senior RCTU leaders are, unfortunately, coming to fruition and those responsible think they can move on and let the rank and file take the flak. That will not happen.

On the pay settlement front it is obvious that there is thinking along the lines of “radical” reform in some operational areas is being contemplated to try and stave off some extremely unpalatable operational outcomes. We know they are too little and too late in the context being looked at and they are allied to changes in how the work and the case is carried out that, frankly and without irony, do not work. One need only to look to the DWP to see the way the wind is blowing – to quote a source:

“On the way to work on Friday I read the following in the paper -

“The cabinet Office announced that 10 per cent of the senior civil service, roughly 400 officials, would get the cash to reward "outstanding performance" and to help people in specialist roles. The money given to senior officials earning £64,000 to £200,000 comes as teachers and policemen have been capped at 1%”.

Shortly after arriving at work the government announced the Pay Deal for civil servants working in the Department of Work & Pensions. It's not straightforward and is entirely based on staff accepting radical changes to their terms and conditions of service.

There will be new contracts changing the hours worked so Job Centres open earlier and later into the evening and more drastically Saturdays in due course as the DWP tries to implement its new Universal Credit Benefit.

The offer sounds good for some, but is based on their signing up to new anti-social hours of working. Those lower down the pay scale (over half) will benefit over the next four years, but those who have been around for years and are on or near the max of their pay scale will just get 1% a year.

Although signing up to the new contract is "voluntary" for those on old contracts, there is a penalty. If a member of staff refuses the "award" will reduce to 0.25%.

Of course there are other factors. Many of those at the higher end of the pay scales are (like me) approaching retirement so the Department has no incentive to pay more, but if refused then these loyal, long standing members of staff will have their pensions affected.

The divisive nature of the offer will mean a general acceptance by those who stand to gain from the financial side but how they will react to the change of hours doing what is a very stressful and difficult job on the front line of a benefits office is more difficult to judge. Conditions in Job Centres are difficult enough with all the pressure put on less staff to do more and be expected to have knowledge of all benefits without proper training.

This deal in no way makes up for the way we have been treated. 

Morale is at an all-time low and will only get worse.”

What are we to do?

There are potentially legal issues in such an approach as that being contemplated in the DWP. That aside and in the bleak context we face we have to challenge the employer directly with the reality of the situation at the workplace. Without histrionics and personal political posturing set out the stark unpalatable choices facing senior leaders (and others) unless they and us take our cases for logical pay reform for HMRC to the Treasury. You cannot divorce pay reform from organisational reform and that has to be based on the reality of the work we do, want to do and cannot and what is best for the UK. A triumvirate of issues that are not included in any rational discussions now and they are certainly not seen by members as all embedded and linked in the current strategy for HMRC.

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