The civil service’s biggest union has rejected an offer from the Ministry of Defence to give a 12.85% pay rise to staff over the next three years, saying it would come at the cost of an “unacceptable loss of terms and conditions”.
Changes to terms and conditions would have included staff losing paid meal breaks, cuts to overtime pay and some staff losing 1.5 days’ leave.
PCS will instead push ahead with balloting MoD members as part of a national ballot on pay, pensions, jobs and the civil service compensation scheme which is set to begin on 26 September.
The MoD said it was “disappointed in PCS’s decision not to even put this offer to their members”.
PCS said it has an existing mandate from a consultative ballot it held with members earlier this year, where on a 42% turnout, 96% of members voted to endorse PCS’s pay claim and by 70% for industrial action if the claim was not met.
The union had demanded a 10% cost-of-living pay rise; a single rate for each grade; London weighting of at least £5,000 per year; a living wage of £15 per hour; a minimum of 35 days’ annual leave; and a reduction in the working week with no loss of pay.
Pay remit guidance published in March said departments could give staff an average pay rise of 2% – rising to 3% if they could show it would help with staff retention, productivity or other priorities. To increase this further, departments had to submit a business case that showed they could offset the cost through other efficiency savings – such as the changes to terms and conditions the MoD is seeking to make.
But while the pay deal would give MoD staff a higher pay bump than some other departments this year, at 3.75%, PCS said it does not address the cost-of-living crisis affecting civil servants and would lead to an unacceptable loss of terms and conditions.
It said it is now using its mandate from members to reject the pay offer and move to a ballot for industrial action.
“Inflation in the UK is predicted to reach 13.5% this year and as a whole the country has seen the value of wages drop by 3% in the last 12 months,” the union said.
“In this climate, the MoD wanted PCS members to sell terms and conditions in exchange for an offer that falls scandalously below inflation, effectively asking members to sacrifice terms and conditions for continuing year-on-year pay cuts.”
PCS also raised concern that just 3.75% of the increase will be paid in the first year of the deal, with the rest spread out over the following two years.
Changes to staff terms and conditions under the deal would include:
- Staff on pre-2014 legacy terms and conditions moving to 2014 terms, resulting in a loss of 1.5 days’ leave, two months’ sick pay, and a longer working week for London-based staff
- All staff being forced onto 37-hour net contracts with unpaid meal breaks
- Reductions to overtime pay, travel time and weekend working
- Removal of an enhanced pay band for London-based staff (approximately a 4% reduction for London based staff)
- Reducing volunteering leave entitlement from six days to three days a year
PCS said it will meet the department for formal talks about "achieving a pay settlement that does not leave its members selling valuable terms and conditions, for less than inflation".
An MoD spokesperson said: “We greatly value our people and that is why we have developed the strongest possible pay offer by working closely with trade unions. Extensive work has been invested in this offer from both sides and we hope PCS reconsider their position.
“The department remains open to extending the deadline for a response to enable PCS to join our four other trade unions in balloting their MoD members on the pay offer.”
The FDA and Prospect have confirmed they are balloting their members on the offer. Unite and GMB are doing the same, according to the MoD.
Prospect general secretary Garry Graham said the union is not in favour of the deal but felt it was up to members to decide.
“Prospect pressed hard during negotiations in good faith to get the best deal on behalf of members," he said.
“Whilst we had reservations about the final offer, and have recommended rejection, we believed we had a duty to ballot members. The ballot closes on Thursday. Ultimately it is for members to decide whether the pay offer is acceptable or not."