News

Members at Natural England to start industrial action in the new year over poverty pay

17 December 2021

Prospect members at Natural England have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action over poverty levels of pay.

In the ballot, 76% voted in favour of a strike, with 84.7% voting in favour of action short of strike.

Action short of a strike will commence on 4 January 2022 and if no further progress is made, then strike action will be taken.

Our members at Natural England will maintain their right to take industrial action until the legal mandate ends on 21 May 2022.

Workforce reform programme

There will also be reviews throughout this period to assess the progress of Natural England’s workforce reform programme.

The section remains seriously concerned and sceptical about some of the reform’s fundamental positions, such as that Natural England is working only within the confines of Treasury guidance, where any pay case for any reform is ’cost neutral’ and ‘self-funded’.

Prospect has made clear to Marian Spain, chief executive and her executive team that our members will not be fooled by language about ‘modernising’ and that the outcome of the reform work must be of genuine net benefit to staff.

Pay

As well as the workforce reform, the 2022 pay award negotiations will be crucial in establishing whether Natural England is serious about mending its broken pay system.

For example:

  • Equal pay cases: 37 women members are included in the Early Conciliation claim now progressing to Employment tribunal claim. A Lead Advisor who started at Natural England in 2010 will have seen their real pay decline by 12% or around £5,000 since that time. The equal pay gap also remains significant at Manager/Principal level where it is 6.31%.
  • Two-thirds of staff haven’t reached the mid-point for the rate for the job

In next year’s pay round, Prospect expects to see Natural England take meaningful steps to start fixing key problem areas such as the equal pay cases and National Nature Reserve (NNR) site staff including reserve wardens, managers and senior reserve managers.

As well as pay, stress and workload is also a big problem at Natural England. Nearly half of staff (47%) report that in the last 12 months they have felt unwell as a result of work-related stress according to Natural England’s own staff survey.

Jane Lancastle, Prospect negotiations officer said:

“For many years, workers in Natural England have been subject to the government’s pay freeze in the public sector, meaning staff have lost a significant proportion of their real terms pay over the past decade.

“The structural issues run deep in Natural England dating back to 2006 when it was formed. There is a strong feeling from Prospect members that they have not been listened to; poor pay and workplace stress is a high concern.

“We have recruited nearly 90 new members since starting the industrial action process. Members are disappointed that they feel it is necessary to commence action short of strike this action, seeing meaningful engagement and outcomes from the workforce reform programme will be key to avoiding strike action.”


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