Civil servants working for the Scottish Government are set to get an interim 2020-21 pay rise of 3% along with other public-sector staff in the nation after pressure from unions to aid employees’ finances during the coronavirus crisis.
The rise will apply to all workers covered by the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy – which excludes teachers and members of the Senior Civil Service, among others. A net to aid the lowest paid public-sector workers means the 2020-21 award will be worth at least £750.
The new settlement, agreed by finance secretary Kate Forbes, matches last year’s 3% offer. The Prospect union said that unlike the 2019 settlement, the latest boost will not go straight to a ballot because it does not constitute the final offer.
Richard Hardy, a negotiator at Prospect – which represents professionals such as scientists and engineers in the civil service and other organisations – said public sector unions had been calling on the Scottish Government to reduce uncertainty and stress for members during the coronavirus crisis.
“This is a really important step by the Scottish Government, which has accepted our arguments that members should not have to worry about pay while they are doing important work on behalf of the country,” he said.
“We hope that the payments can start to be made in May. We will not be balloting on the increase and it does not represent our final position on pay. But the move does show the power of unions acting for members.”
Cat Boyd, national officer for the Public and Commercial Services union – which is Scotland’s largest trade body for civil servants and lead negotiator – said further talks were expected to look at additional flexibilities within pay policy and wider terms and conditions issues.
“After we wrote to Ms Forbes in March on this matter, our members will be glad that these interim measures have been taken. It’s never been more important to get pay in people’s pockets and we hope this approach will help our members through the crisis,” she said.
“However, we also consider this to be the only first instalment of the 2020 award. As soon as face-to-face negotiations can take place, we will put our full claim to the employer, so that civil and public servants get the pay settlement they both need and deserve.”
A statement from Forbes, who became Scotland’s finance minister following Derek Mackay’s resignation in February, said the decision to implement an interim pay rise for staff covered by Scotland’s public sector pay policy had followed a request from unions last month.
“I fully recognise the value of the work being carried out by public bodies and the importance of ensuring that pay awards are implemented on time,” she said.
“I appreciate that key staff may not be available for various reasons over the next couple of months and that this would have an impact on pay negotiations and implementation.
“In order to provide certainty to public sector workers and their families, I am content to agree to your proposal that all public bodies covered by the Public Sector Pay Policy for Staff Pay Remits 2020-21 can now look to implement the basic award elements of that policy as soon as is practicable.”
Forbes said the pay awards should include progression increases where they were due, but she noted that some public bodies may not be able to fast-track payment where their revenue streams were being impacted by Covid-19.
She said discussions about other aspects of the 2020-21 settlement that unions are keen to address would be “picked up at a later date”.
Prospect’s Hardy said organisations expected to struggle to pay staff the 2020-21 awards promptly would include bodies that were reliant on access payments for revenue, such as Historic Environment Scotland and National Museums Scotland.