Officials working in the Competition and Markets Authority are to receive an average pay increase of 4% after the non-ministerial department was able to go above the 2% increase set out in Treasury pay guidance for 2019-20.
The higher increase is available to the department through a Cabinet Office paybill control pilot that allows departments and agencies to set higher increases.
The CMA agreement will see staff at the bottom of pay ranges will receive close to 5%, while those at the top will receive an above-inflation rise of 2.2%, according to FDA national officer Steven Littlewood.
Littlewood told CSW that the CMA has relied on paying external hires increased starting salaries to address recruitment issues, which had “created a revolving door culture of high turnover”.
He added: “This deal will enable the CMA to recruit new staff while also rewarding loyal staff and retaining their expertise so it’s a win-win.
“This is only the beginning of fixing some of the problems caused by pay freezes and a lack of pay progression, but we look forward to working with the CMA in future years to carry on the good work.”
The paybill control pilot scheme was launched as part of Autumn Statement 2013 when a small number of government organisations were allowed flexibility from the central pay rules. Acceptance into the scheme is separate from the process of submitting a business case for pay flexibility to the Treasury, which is the mechanism through which the Cabinet Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union have agreed increases above 2%.
Under the pilot, departments apply to the Cabinet Office to agreeing a control total for the amount that the department can spend on their total pay bill, rather than applying the centrally-mandated pay guidance. The CMA has been involved in the pay bill control system for three years, having made the case that it needed to pay higher salaries to recruit the staff it needed, Littlewood said.
“The justification for getting on the pilot was that they need to pay higher salaries. The only way they could do previously was through the flexible starting pay that they paid to new hires, but that was creating resentment with existing staff, as the answer was to leave and then come back again, there was a revolving door and a lot of retention problems. So they've recognised that and that's part of the reason why they were able to get onto the pilot and lift the lift the pay ranges.
“The CMA applied to take part in that to the Cabinet Office, they got permission for it, and then we had a negotiation around how the extra money can spend should actually be allocated,” Littlewood said. “That's why the rates are so much higher than other pay awards.”
PCS industrial officer Tony Walsh added: "We welcome the progress made with the CMA in a number of areas including the significant amount of money in the offer on base pay compared with last year, increases in the minima at each grade, an underpinning minimum of £600 and a focus on progression through the pay ranges through increased quartile progression.
"We recognise that negotiations this year were conducted in a meaningful and constructive manner recognising the advances made last year and that more needed to be done to maintain that progress.
PCS also welcome that CMA did move on some specific issues in the light of arguments put forward by staff representatives. In particular in relation to negotiating on the differential between PRP payments for Partially Exceeding and Consistently Exceeding and the provision of an Organisational Award for all staff of £150. These made staff feel that their concerns were being listened to and was a significant boost to their wellbeing."
CMA human resources director Victoria Tricarico told Civil Service World that it “is in a particularly challenging market for competition experts and we need to recruit and retain staff particularly as we prepare for Brexit”.
She added: “The pay increases that we have agreed under this scheme are in line with our commitment to affording meaningful pay awards for staff, particularly colleagues at the lower end of the pay range.”
As well as pay rise, the deal included a £150 in-year non-consolidated bonus for all staff, said Littlewood, who said that the flexibilities offered through the pilot should be more widely available.
“We think that this will help to retain staff and they should be rolled out wider across other agencies and other departments. At the moment, [departments are] still a bit constrained because you either have to make a business case or go on the pilot, but I think the pilot will show that this works [to improve retention], so it should be rolled out more widely. Every department should have greater autonomy in managing their reward and renumeration.”