SCS morale dropping as salary frustration rises

Senior civil servants have become even more dissatisfied with their pay arrangements, are more inclined to leave the civil service, and less inclined to work extra hours than they were a year ago, according to a survey carried out by the FDA and Prospect trade unions.

By Suzannah.Brecknell

30 Jan 2013

Just over 500 senior civil servants responded to the survey, published yesterday but conducted in Autumn 2012, that the unions carried out to inform their response to the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB). When asked “how satisfied are you with overall pay arrangements in the SCS?”, 92 per cent of respondents said they were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied. Last year, when asked the same question, 83 per cent were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied.

Asked whether their morale had decreased, increased or remained the same in 2011-12, 72 per cent of respondents said it had decreased, and the issues which most affect morale were named as pensions, pay freeze and lack of pay progression.

Two thirds of respondents have “seriously considered leaving the service in the last 12 months”, and a similar number – 63 per cent – said they were more inclined to look for a job outside of the civil service than they were a year ago.
Although nearly all respondents said they regularly work more than their contracted hours each week – with 30 per cent working 11 extra hours or more – 66 per cent said they feel less motivated to work additional hours than they did a year ago.

Unions warn that without commitment to improve  salaries and terms and conditions “once the economy picks up there will be an exodus of talent in the senior civil service”.

The evidence highlights the continued – and increasing – gap between pay for similar roles in the SCS and outside the civil service. This, it argues, hampers recruitment and retention, and discourages movement between the public and private sectors: “Under the current regime there is little that would attract any secondee back to the SCS”.

Over 88 per cent of respondents said they did not see a clear link between their performance and pay this year, up from 65 per cent in 2009, when the union last asked a similar question to members. Officials did not, however, welcome the reforms to performance-related pay which were outlined in the 2011 Hutton review of public sector pay. Hutton suggested senior officials should place a proportion of their salary at risk, receiving it back if they meet performance goals. Just seven per cent believed such a system would encourage higher performance.

Unions spoke positively about recent reforms to pay systems in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, which saw  pay bands shortened and removed overlaps between bands as well as with grades below the civil service. The reforms also introduced automatic progression along pay scales for staff who perform satisfactorily and linked increases in pay in part to length of service. The unions described these reforms as a “genuine attempt to address long term problems” and “free from the dogmatic approach to performance pay that has influenced successive governments here [in England].”

Respondents were also frustrated by difficulties progressing up pay bands despite receiving high performance ratings, and the fact that some senior civil servants on Pay Band 1 are paid less than non-SCS colleagues in Grades 6 and 7.

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