Derek Mackay delivering his 2019/20 budget. Scottish Parliament TV
The Scottish Government has been accused of failing to value the work of senior civil servants after it announced a split public sector pay plan that means top officials could get an increase below 2% next year.
In his Budget statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the Scottish Government’s finance secretary Derek Mackay said he remained committed to providing pay increases above the 1% cap that applied until April.
Under the three-tiered plan, civil servants and other public officials earning £36,500 or less will receive a 3% pay rise, which Mackay highlighted was above inflation. However, for those earning between £36,500 and £80,000, the pay increase will be capped at 2%, while those earning above £80,000 will have their increases capped in cash terms at £1,600. A £1,600 increase for someone earning £80,000 equates to 2% but represents a much smaller percentage increase further up the pay band. It represents a less than 1% annual pay increase for Scottish Government permanent secretary Leslie Evans, based on her pay range of between £165,000 and £169,999.
Announcing the plan, Mackay said it represented “a reasonable and affordable public sector pay approach and continues on a journey of restoration of public sector pay”.
He added: “Our commitment to public sector workers is part of our commitment to high quality public services.”
The document setting out the pay policy in full said that 70% of public sector staff in Scotland would receive an increase of at least 3%. The uprating could be higher as the policy also provides the flexibility for individual employers to use their discretion to reach decisions on pay progression for staff and to consider giving awards above 3% to the very lowest paid.
Mackay said he wished “to acknowledge the contribution of public sector workers in helping us to achieve our ambitions and deliver our priorities right across Scotland… at a time when budgets are being squeezed”.
Responding to the pay, FDA trade union national officer Allan Sampson said that while the union supported increasing the pay of the lowest paid workers, it was also important to remember that FDA members, who hold senior posts in the civil service, have also suffered from nearly a decade of pay restraint.
“The split nature of this pay policy sends a message that the Scottish Government doesn’t truly value the vital work carried out by our members in Scotland,” Sampson added.
“It is our members in the senior and professionals ranks who lag furthest behind their private sector counterparts – this policy risks creating barriers to effective pay settlements, limiting the Scottish Government’s ability to recruit and retain the talented staff it needs.”
The Public and Commercial Services union, which represents rank and file civil servants, called on Mackay to “show some courage” and provide a bigger increase to restore civil servants’ earing power that had been diminished since 2010.
PCS national officer Lynn Henderson said Mackay promised staff “the wage decline they suffered as a result of austerity was over and that last year’s scrapping of the 1% cap represented the first step in a journey towards restoring pay”.
However, she added: “Not only has that journey stalled at the first step, workers across the Scottish civil and public services will feel betrayed by today’s announcement.
“Our members have lost hundreds of millions of pounds in pay over 10 years and the impact on their living standards has been cruel and severe.”
She highlighted that even a 3% increase for staff was below the retail prices index measure of inflation, which stands at 3.3%, although this is not the government’s preferred measure of inflation. It uses the consumer prices index, which currently stands at 2.4%.
Prospect national secretary for Scotland Richard Hardy added: "The way of addressing low pay is through an underpin similar to the one Mr Mackay put in place and we fully support that, but the decision to propose a differentiated pay award is in our view is a mistake and sends completely the wrong message about the value being placed on the key roles our members are working hard to deliver."