Labour’s chief secretary to the Treasury has criticised the government’s “shameful” lack of consultation on the civil service pay guidance published earlier this week and a backed union demands for the remit to departments to be withdrawn.
After the leaders of the three civil service unions jointly called on the government to withdraw the guidance after what was described as a “shambolic and contemptable consultation”, Peter Dowd said it showed the government was “riding roughshod over our hardworking public sector workers”.
The Treasury's updated pay guidance for civil servants has told departments to limit average pay awards for government workers in 2018-19 to a range of 1% to 1.5% in what the government said was an end to the 1% cap on increases that has been in place since 2012.
Following the publication of the new pay policy, the leaders of the three unions – PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, Prospect chief Mike Clancy and FDA boss Dave Penman – met Cabinet Office ministers David Lidington and Oliver Dowden to protest that the guidance had been issued without meaningful consultation.
In a rare united position across the sector, the union chiefs said that a fresh consultation was needed due to a lack of ministerial engagement, and highlighted that other public sector workers had received better awards.
A 1% cap on public sector annual pay rises has been in place since 2012, following a two-year freeze, though staff in sectors such as health, policing and local government, as well as civil servants working for the Scottish Government, have since been offered cap-busting raises. With the exception of the NHS pay deal, which is worth 6.5% over three years, most pay rises announced so far have been funded from within existing budgets.
In a statement released today, the PCS union said that there was “a frank exchange of views with Cabinet Office officials last night” where all three unions agreed the 1%-1.5% pay remit was “unacceptable”, and would treat government staff worse than many other parts of the public sector.
It also pointed out that ministers had promised two further consultation meetings prior to issuing the remit that did not take place.
Serwotka said it was clear ministers “were unprepared for the strength of feeling expressed not just by us but by our colleagues in the FDA and Prospect as well”.
Clancy said that the unions had given Lidington “a very clear message that the remit guidance must be withdrawn”, while in a message to members Penman said the three general secretaries were “united both in terms of our anger at the lack of meaningful consultation and in our single demand that the remit guidance be withdrawn and a fresh consultation process begun”. They have agreed to continue working as closely as possible on these issues.
"Our single focus for this meeting was the shambolic and contemptable consultation process on the 2018 remit guidance," he said.
Dowd told CSW's sister title PoliticsHome that it was “a shameful state of affairs when ministers cannot even be bothered to properly consult civil servants on their future pay”.
He added: “Ministers should now listen to the civil service unions and immediately withdraw the current pay remittance guidance and undertake a fresh consultation.
“It is high time the chancellor recognised the human cost of his disastrous pay cap and commit to giving our dedicated civil servants the pay rise they deserve.”
Responding to the call for the guidance to be withdrawn, a government spokesperson said: "Civil servants do an outstanding job supporting the delivery of public services right across the country.
"This year’s pay guidance provides greater flexibility for civil service pay, striking a balance between rewarding our hard working staff and ensuring good value for the taxpayer."