Unions call Acas to break pay deadlock with MoD

Prospect says MoD presented a business case for a pay rise tied to conditions "it knew the unions opposed"

Photo: PA

Civil service trade unions have asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to intervene in pay talks with the Ministry of Defence after negotiations hit an impasse.

Prospect, PCS, the FDA, Unite and GMB met MoD representatives at Acas this week in a bid to break the deadlock, which they said was partly down to the department's "failure to follow bargaining agreements or facilitate a dispute resolution process".

The trade unions have accused the department of having “continuously misrepresented” their position on the pay offer in communications with staff by publishing a pay offer after the unions had already rejected it.


Talks, which have been going on since July, hit a wall last month after the MoD presented a formal pay offer worth an average 11.5% pay rise across the whole department over three years.

The department said the deal would be paid for using existing commitments and reforms to the existing paybill.

However, the unions have said these reforms will erode working conditions and mean the pay rise would come at the expense of working conditions. The offer would, among other things, reduce overtime payments. 

The unions also said the MoD had failed to negotiate in good faith, or to honour its commitment to work with them on a business case for pay in the department.

The department had instead submitted a "secret" business case to the Treasury "basing pay increases on detrimental changes to terms and conditions for staff which it knew the unions opposed", Prospect said in a statement.

Cabinet Office guidance published this summer allowed departments to give pay rises to their staff worth up to 2% of their paybill, or to submit a business case making the argument for a higher pay rise. Several departments have submitted business cases, including the Department for Exiting the European Union, which secured an average 7.6% boost for its employees, and the Department for International Trade, which offered its staff a 2% rise after failing to secure the exchequer's endorsement for a higher pay bump.

Julie Flanagan, lead negotiator for Prospect, said: “As well as cutting the take-home pay of the lowest-paid staff and undermining the government’s social mobility policies, the offer is divisive and damaging to the department’s output.

“The overtime proposals have clearly been drafted without knowledge or understanding of how overtime operates across the department.

“It seems that the department wants to divide its workforce by expecting staff to endorse an approach which involves robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

PCS defence sector group secretary, Justin Thomas said: “This divisive deal was designed to pit staff against each other. Some PCS members who are understandably desperate for their first above-inflation pay increase in almost a decade would get one, at the expense of others.

“Instead of secretly trying to sell off our members’ terms and conditions, the employer should have listened to the trade unions who had identified savings that meant everyone got a better deal. PCS want an above inflation pay rise for all staff that doesn’t come at the cost to low paid workers.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “We have been talking to the trade unions and are awaiting a formal response to the departments civilian pay 2019 offer.”

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