A screw-up – at best – by Work & Pensions (DWP) Secretary Esther McVey means that tens of thousands of DWP employees will be deprived of their paltry 1% annual pay-rise for an indefinite period.
Last Thursday, 7 June, DWP staff received a message via their internal intranet system informing them that they will
- not receive their pay rise in July
- not receive any bonus due with it
In typically crass Tory fashion, the intranet message was the sum total of the communication on the issue – staff report that nobody from a senior level has talked to them about it.
Staff should receive a 1.1% pay rise annually on 1 July – the same date every year, so it’s not as though the DWP has been caught unawares – after the DWP and PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) agreed a four-year pay structure as part of the ‘Employee Deal’ (ED). The deal came with assurances that there would be no disruption or delay to any pay awards.
However, this year’s pay rise and bonuses have been delayed because DWP states that it has not received official guidance from the Treasury – apparently because Esther McVey has not signed it off.
DWP has refused to explain why this failure occurred and says that the Civil Service cannot instruct the Treasury to automatically issue pay rises or bonuses that are due. DWP has also failed to explain why the annual pay rise has to be ‘signed off’ when a four-year agreement was signed in 2016.
According to DWP insiders, Esther McVey should have signed off the guidance in April to instruct the Treasury to pay all pay-rises and bonuses in April with effect from 1 July – but it seems that nothing was done and senior DWP managers have left it until June to inform staff that there has been a delay.
On the face of it, this is a clear breach of contract – as part of the ED agreement annual pay rises and bonuses must be included in July’s salary.
Adding insult to injury, DWP staff have been told by senior managers that there is no indication when Esther McVey will sign off the pay guidance – and that DWP will be meeting with PCS Union again this week to try and resolve the matter.
It seems the DWP has told staff there is no guarantee that the dispute will be resolved before Christmas – but have said that once the pay guidance has been signed off it will be backdated to 1 July.
Staff will not receive any form of compensation for any delay, distress or inconvenience this has caused However, they have been told that they can apply for an advance of their pay rise and bonus – but without any guarantee that it will be agreed.
To make the problem worse, it seems that there are doubts whether the DWP’s human resources/admin will have enough resources to deal with a high volume of requests within a reasonable timescale.
Some fixed-term staff are due to leave the DWP in July and will not receive their P45 until the pay dispute has been resolved – and the same would apply to any permanent staff leaving the department. This means they will remain on the ’emergency’ tax rate if they start a new job, taking a serious bite out of their take-home pay until the matter is sorted out.
DWP say this is out of their hands and it is the responsibility of the individual to manage their own financial affairs until the pay dispute has been resolved.
Morale throughout DWP, like most other Civil Service departments, is at an all-time low and the pay dispute is considered the final insult. Since 2010, many staff have had pay freezes while others have had a meagre 1% pay rise.
It seems that Esther McVey and her party have as much contempt for those who are trying to administer the sinking benefits system as for those who are forced to rely on it.
A statement released by PCS about the issue says that:
PCS has already raised our concerns with the department and made clear the union does not accept there is any justification for this delay, especially for those payments already enshrined by the Employee Deal Collective Agreement.
Members have rightly pointed out that one of the key “selling points” of ED was the assurance, from the then Permanent Secretary, Robert Devereux, of pay increases being made on time with it being a four year deal and not, therefore, subject to the usual constraints of the Treasury pay remit.
While PCS accepts that members in the grades SEO and above are covered by separate arrangements that are still subject to the Treasury remit being cleared, we do not accept that payments due under ED should be delayed, and expect the department to find an urgent solution to the problem they have created. The intranet message issued by DWP yesterday does not change the reality that the ED money has already been agreed and should not be the subject of Treasury clearance as we received it back in 2016.
PCS has written to DWP today, demanding an urgent meeting, but in the meantime we believe this episode highlights, more than ever, the need for members to fully support the national pay campaign and attend any meetings organised by branches in the coming days and weeks.
Currently, DWP have failed to implement the pay awards they promised under Employee Deal. The increases due in 2017 were paid on time, from the end of July last year, and continue to be paid monthly in members’ salaries for the 2017/18 pay year. The working patterns you are currently working, as notified in February, remain in that pay year and you should continue working them.
PCS is aware that many members will have started to receive their proposed working patterns for Rotation 4 and further advice will be issued well in advance of the next rotation starting. If the delay in implementing the 2018 pay award element continues then PCS will obviously challenge this with everything at our disposal as well as advising members of any impact it may have on the collective agreement and working patterns. It is currently premature though to envisage this situation continuing and obviously members will be entitled to receive backdated payments for any delay that does occur.
PCS will continue to support members and branches in ensuring the terms of the collective agreement are honoured and adhered to. PCS will challenge any, and all, breaches of the collective agreement when they occur and will not allow the important gains made in these negotiations to be watered down or reneged upon.
This is an important period for our members in DWP and right across the union. The need for decent, across the board pay increases has never been greater, and we must all get fully behind the national campaign to achieve these aims and increase the pressure on the government and our employer to address low pay for all.
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