Member voices crucial in delivering the next steps in public sector pay campaign

22 September 2023

More than 40 representatives from a wide range of branches across Prospect’s public services sector met this week to discuss how to progress the union’s public and civil service pay campaign.

Public Services Sector President Geoff Fletcher opened the event, telling reps that civil service pay is broken and that members voices would be crucial in delivering the next steps on the campaign.

On behalf of Prospect’s Research Department, Martin McIvor, gave a presentation on the broader economic context and the implications of government spending plans for departmental budgets. He pointed out that when protected spending on areas like the NHS was excluded that for many government departments “real terms cuts in budgets are pencilled in for future years.”

Mike Clancy, Prospect General Secretary, told the meeting that the Prime Minister’s speech softening Net Zero commitments showed that the campaign for the next general election was well underway.

Responding to the watering down of important targets, Mike said, that for Prospect members, “This is something that is a professional vocation and a professional responsibility… It is profoundly depressing that the announcements yesterday were both free of fact and risking our future.”

Reflecting on how the next election would influence policy towards the civil service and the wider public sector, Mike explained Prospect’s view that pay delegation is broken beyond repair. But he believed that there is an opportunity to identify what a new system would look like, and what would be credible, to offer as an option for change to whoever forms the next government after the election.

The General Secretary said that the next government “must set a path back to valuing the civil service and civil servants.”

Ken Mulkearn, Director of Incomes Data Research (IDR), delivered a presentation on “Pay in the civil service – where next?

He outlined some of the problems with the current process for setting most civil servants pay – the pay remit and delegated bargaining. He said this process has led to comparatively low pay awards, downward pressure on other pay elements including progression, an absence of meaningful negotiations in many cases, as well as making it difficult for departments to deal with issues like specialist pay.

Ken will be leading a programme of research work for Prospect and the FDA identifying some features of a “reformed and renovated” pay review process that could guide Prospect’s campaigning and bargaining in future.

Prospect’s Garry Graham addressing public sector reps

Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary for the public service sector, reflected on the union’s campaigning in 2022 and 2023.

He emphasised that the union had achieved a £1,500 payment, moratorium on changes on redundancy terms to 2025 and commitments on compulsory redundancies and arbitrary headcount cut targets.

He said these tangible changes would not have been achieved without the campaigning and industrial action taken by members in the sector.

He told reps that campaigning was ongoing across the sector, including industrial action ballots taking place in some areas.

Working with the Public Services Sector Executive, he said, a key priority for 2024 was tackling the lack of pay progression.

He called on the representatives present and all branches to share stories of what they are doing to raise profile of members’ work in the sector; identify areas where there are pressing recruitment and retention problems; and provide briefings on the impact of pay austerity for more than a decade on public service delivery.

Prospect member on the picket line

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