Defence unions ask conciliation service to help break pay deadlock

12 December 2019

The Ministry of Defence has agreed to the unions’ request to use Acas, the conciliation service, to break the deadlock over pay for 2019.

The unions are seeking conciliation over the department’s failure to abide by the bargaining agreements or facilitate a dispute resolution process.

The unions, Prospect, PCS, FDA, Unite and GMB are also angry that the department has continually misrepresented their position over the offer.

They say that since the pay negotiations began in August, the department has:

  • Failed to negotiate in good faith and with a view to reaching agreement.
  • Failed to honour its written commitment to work jointly with the trade unions on submitting a business case for MOD pay.
  • 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.
  • Unilaterally closed planned negotiations that were approaching an agreed way forward.
  • Refused to recognise the legitimacy of the separate bargaining units in the current bargaining agreements covering industrial and non-industrial staff by producing one offer that covers both and basing increases in one pay pot on reductions in the other.
  • Refused to invoke the dispute process which is an integral element of those bargaining agreements and is written into the most recent Employee Relations Framework agreement.
  • Continuously sought to undermine the trade unions by publishing an offer predicated on detrimental changes to terms and conditions which had been rejected by the TUs to all staff then publishing updates alleging that the TUs are at fault over the current impasse.
The offer

The offer is based on reductions to terms and conditions for staff – which Prospect reps said they would not accept at their conference earlier this year.

Almost half of the three-year offer needs to be funded by:

  • reducing overtime payments, which would mean a real time cut in take home pay for a significant number of staff carrying out key tasks in support of the department’s critical outputs
  • removing the London pay lead, which would result in London becoming unaffordable to work in by the end of the three-year deal, and
  • changing how recruitment and retention allowances are paid, reducing their value and their effectiveness. The impact would mostly be felt by the lowest paid staff in the department.

Prospect believes the offer will lead to recruitment and retention problems both in London because of the removal of the London pay lead and across the key sites where the allowances being changed are currently paid meaning that outputs will need to be met by overtime which nobody will volunteer for if it is to be paid at single time.

“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,” said the union’s negotiator Julie Flanagan.

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

She also said that the department was disingenuous in making two separate offers.

“Both offers talk about a mythical overall 11.5% average increase rather than the figure each individual collective may expect.

“The assertion that two separate pay offers would be implemented if one collective group rejected the offer and one group accepted it is also nonsense.

“If either grouping rejects the offer neither can be paid because the savings needed to fund the increases won’t be available,” Flanagan concluded.