Blog

Delivering for members in public services

Garry Graham · 16 December 2021

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham gives an update on the latest developments in our public services sector, including keeping members safe in the wake of the Omicron variant, pay and a survey for our senior civil servants.

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Responding to the Omicron variant

We are engaging with the Cabinet Office and devolved governments, as well as individual employers, to seek to ensure that our members, wherever they work, continue to be safe and supported.

Many members are working from home, some are working a mix of hybrid working and others, due to operational requirements, are required to travel and be on site.

We are encouraging risk assessments to be reviewed, including the appropriate use of home working, ensuring high standards of ventilations, ensuring the wearing of mask in communal areas and maintaining social distancing.

We are also aware that, for many, working from home has not been the ‘nirvana’ that some in the press might suggest. Many staff have felt under pressure, the boundaries between work and home life have become increasingly blurred and isolation from the daily interaction with colleagues has led to increased concerns about mental health and wellbeing.

Vaccinations

Garry Graham

We are encouraging members to get the vaccine and the booster, and to encourage their friends and family to do the same. As a union, we know we are all stronger when we work together. The most effective thing we can all do to restrict the spread of the virus and minimise its impact is to ensure that we and those we care about are fully vaccinated.

Through engagement with the Cabinet Office and individual employers we have negotiated arrangements where staff are given time off to vaccinated, both for themselves and those they have caring responsibility for.

Further to this, we support the initiative encouraging public servants to volunteer to assist in helping the roll out of the vaccine and booster programme where operationally possible. If your employer is part of the scheme they should be in contact and we’d encourage you to volunteer.

Public service pay in 2022: UK government

While the chancellor’s announcement of the lifting of the ‘pay pause’ by the UK Government was welcome, the key challenge will be to ensure that the lifting of the pay pause results in meaningful pay increases for members.

In the Budget, the Chancellor announced that all departmental budgets were to increase in real terms over the three-year Spending Round. For areas covered by the Cabinet Office pay remit guidance, our priority is to press for a much freedom and flexibility to enable pay increases which:

  • protect living standards in real terms
  • enable staff to progress through their pay ranges and value and reward knowledge, skills and experience.

As well as putting pressure on the Treasury and the Cabinet Office – we need to be putting pressure on individual employers to do the right thing. As part of our wider campaigning to showcase what our members do and make the case for better and fairer pay we are encouraging branches to:

  • hold meetings open to members and potential members to discuss what action we need to take to bring pressure for change;
  • consider bespoke letter writing campaigns to organisational leaders (CEOs, Perms Secs etc) and democratically elected political representatives;
  • press organisations to commit to building business cases with the union, making the case for fair pay;
  • help Prospect celebrate and champion the work our members do to defend, protect, support and enhance the lives of us all – by developing and submitting case studies;
  • recruit: union membership has never been more important.

The more pressure we can build at employer level, the more strength that builds for central discussions to enable meaningful negotiations to take place.

Please get in touch with your local branch as well as us centrally to find out what you can do to assist us achieving fair pay for all.

Survey of Prospect Senior Civil Service Members

Along with the FDA we are in the process of gathering evidence to put to the Senior Salaries Review Body. As part of that work we are asking that our members who are in the senior civil service (SCS) or covered by analogous systems complete our survey.

We have always stressed that everyone deserves a fair deal on pay and the harder we push on SCS pay, the more it will assist us in pressing for fair pay for staff in delegated grades and the more we press on pay for staff in delegated grades the more it helps our SCS members.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Last week and Prospect met the Cabinet Office to voice our concern about media reports of what appeared to be an attempt to silence discussion on vital issues such as race at work, inclusion and employment good practice. We are concerned that the Note sent out to staff networks would have a chilling effect and stifle debate and discussion.

We believe equality, diversity and inclusion are wholly consistent with the values of the Civil Service Code. Being politically impartial and advocating for workforce diversity are perfectly compatible and, in our view, necessary to live up to the ambitions of the civil service and support the plurality of thought and constructive challenge that is necessary to support and underpin a diverse and inclusive workplace.

The civil service rightly prides itself on being an equal, diverse and inclusive employer. Trade unions and the equality networks are an essential part of progress that government has made so far in living up to these ambitions.

We are demanding a more data-driven approach to seek to ensure recruitment, pay, appraisal and promotion systems are fair. We will also be writing to branches to encourage them to contact staff Network Groups and work with them as appropriate.


Public Services

From protecting our rivers to inspecting our workplaces, Prospect members work in the public interest across a range of organisations.