Jeremy Corbyn says Labour would bring back national civil service pay bargaining

Written by Matt Foster on 24 May 2016 in News

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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Matt Foster
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Matt Foster is CSW's deputy editor. He tweets as @CSWDepEd

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Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 24 May, 2016 - 19:39
Right, so if you are paid higher than average for your grade, your pay will go down under Corbyn. The civil service is not a uniform monolith, however much the politicians want it to be. It is varied, and acts like a free market for skills. The free market works. Union interference doesn't.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 25 May, 2016 - 13:28
The structure and size of the Civil Service is dictated by the government. The unions are the only protection Civil Servants have against otherwise interfering politicians and those bent on the privatisation agenda. The public sector is unbiased not-for-profit however they are being pushed into earning their funding and heading towards individual departments that can easily be shipped out to the private sector. We are seeing this now with the quality and ethos children are being taught with in Academies. Everything seems to be about how to make money. What kind of future do we see for society when the mind-set of the young is how to be able to afford the next flashy thing.

William MOD (not verified)

Submitted on 25 May, 2016 - 15:25
What protection are the unions giving us? Prospect put its fees up 10% since 2010 and the 3 big Civil service Unions just bicker all the time - see the article by the head of the FDA


Submitted on 6 June, 2016 - 16:33
Totally agree. I work for the DWP. My union PCS have just asked me to accept a pay deal that sees all my longstanding terms and conditions sold down the river for virtually nothing. I've just voted myself a £10.00 a month pay rise by resigning my union membership.

Anonymous Too (not verified)

Submitted on 25 May, 2016 - 13:53
I thought the whole idea of the Civil Service 'grading' was so that everyone on a particular grade received the same pay - obviously not if you work in different Government departments. And what makes it worse is being in a job for ten years, never reaching the top of the grade and then having a new starter come in earning the same as you. The whole pay grade system needs a good shake up - the sooner the better.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 25 May, 2016 - 14:25
After 32 years service - 13 in my current grade - I am still not on the maximum, some way short in fact. I feel robbed and cheated.

William (MOD) MSc (not verified)

Submitted on 25 May, 2016 - 15:06
Obviously, I need to read more of the details of what the Labour party are proposing before I make any comment, other than – about bl**dy time they noticed that Civil Servant have lost out and are being driven out of the Civil Service. For me, I have lost out on approximately £3500 on pay rises, and when you include how much my pension is now costing (up from 1.5% to 6%) – let’s estimate that to be about another £3000. So, it is about time the party for the working person noticed! But – I have to disagree on the one grade one wage comments. I am C1 engineer in the MoD. When these posts are filled the minimum requirements are often BEng (hons) or full engineering apprenticeship and HNC equivalent. How does that compare with the B2 Inventory manager where the advert asked for a GCSE maths and a certificate of competence? I used engineering as an example, because that’s my background and we used to be on a higher pay grade than the Executive Officers (EO). Why – firstly the qualifications and skills required to do the work and it was needed to recruit and retain technical people because of wages in industry. I have to close by saying that other specialists also merit a pay spine higher than the EO grade.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 28 May, 2016 - 11:20
The one size fits no one approach to pay has not and does not work, and imposing it at a national level will only exacerbate the civil service brain drain. You cannot pay an admin C2 in Manchester the same as an Engineering C2 in London and expect to retain the skills of the latter. If pay policy is to change (and it should) it must reflect training, skill, qualification, experience, seniority and location when determining salaries or people who have the ability to do so will continue to leave for outside employers taking their capabilities with them.

William (MOD) (not verified)

Submitted on 1 June, 2016 - 11:48
Can someone please pass these comments onto Mr Corbyn. I'd like to hear his response and what the Labour party intends to do about the Civil Service pay.

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