The trade union for professionals and specialists who work in government has urged the Environment Agency to push back against Treasury pay guidance limiting raises for civil servants to 1.5%.
Prospect said the 1% to 1.5% range government departments must stick within for pay awards in 2018-19 should not apply to Environment Agency staff, most of whom are not civil servants.
The Agency is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where most staff are not part of the civil service pension scheme but instead the local government pension scheme.
The government has lifted the 1% public sector pay cap that has been in place since 2012 to between 2% and 3.5% for most public sector workers including NHS staff, teachers, police officers, prison officers and local government staff. Government departments, however, have been told by the Treasury to “make average pay awards within the new range of 1% - 1.5%”.
Prospect called on the Environment Agency to clearly distinguish that its staff are public sector workers, including some “tier 1 responders”, and not civil servants. It said that Agency staff had suffered an average real terms loss of around 15% in pay since 2010, which was when the government initiated a two-year pay freeze.
The union called on James Bevan, Environment Agency chief executive, and the executive board to move away from the Treasury’s pay guidance issued to government departments, ahead of any formal pay negotiations starting.
Kevin Warden, Prospect negotiations officer, said: “Other public sector organisations have pay remits of up to 3.5%, although with RPI currently around 3.4% this is only just keeping pace with the real rate of inflation.
“Part of any offer made to staff will need to include a significant increase in payments for the many standby and incident response roles within the organisation because – unlike some other tier 1 responders who have been offered more than 1.5% – the Agency relies on volunteers to meet its out of hours obligations.”
The Environment Agency said pay setting arrangements for staff were covered by the civil service pay guidance for 2018-19, with the pay remit approved by Michael Gove, the environment secretary. The Agency is required to comply with this guidance and associated controls set by the Cabinet Office.