Jeremy Corbyn says Labour would bring back national civil service pay bargaining
Labour leader backs long-running aim of the Public and Commercial Services union, that would see an end to departmental chiefs setting their own pay for staff
Jeremy Corbyn has committed Labour to reintroducing national pay bargaining in the civil service.
In a notable shift in Labour policy, the party’s leader told the Public and Commercial Services union conference on Tuesday that he wanted to see an end to separate departments setting their own pay levels for officials.
The current system was introduced in the mid-1990s, in a bid to allow managers more flexibility over what they pay their staff.
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But PCS has been particularly critical of the system, saying it leads to major disparities in pay between officials who are at the same grade, but who work in different departments and locations.
Corbyn told PCS delegates that managing the civil service workforce was “a question of how you treat people and how you deal with them”.
And he announced: “I want to make it very clear that the next Labour government, I want to ensure, returns to national pay bargaining throughout the civil service. That seems to me the right thing to do.
“The absurdity of hundreds of different sets of negotiations must end. It creates unequal pay.
He added: “It’s an obstacle to staff moving within the service and must take up an enormous amount of staff reps’ and, indeed, management’s time in negotiating lots of different agreements when there ought to be national pay bargaining. I want to ensure that is returned.”
One source familiar with the civil service labour movement told CSW that Corbyn’s shift was “significant” in terms of his party’s policy, as Labour had continued with delegated pay bargaining during 13 years of government.
But the source said that, if implemented, the move would be a major undertaking for departments, and could open them up to equal pay challenges. The source said it would not necessarily lead to lower-paid staff seeing their pay increase.
A return to national pay bargaining would, however, likely strengthen the ability of unions to organise cross-government pay disputes, rather than dealing with individual employers.
Corbyn also renewed his call for end to the 1% cap on civil service pay rises, something he said would “restore good industrial relations in the civil service”.
The announcement from Corbyn came as Mark Serwotka, PCS’s general secretary, urged his union to do “everything” possible to support Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
Serwotka has previously hinted that the major civil service union, which has been unaffiliated with any political party since it was set up, could seek to formalise ties with Labour.
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