Cuts, austerity and continued pay freezes produce a landscape that is as unfair as it is unimaginative, while making no contribution to growth, said Mike Clancy, the union’s general secretary designate. He was seconding a motion on pay and public service reform.
The government did have a labour market policy, said Clancy. “It is simply 'equality of misery'. This is the workplace reality of 'all in it together'. The government has contrived the idea that public servants are cosseted, a drag on efficiency, by referring to private sector workers – when pensions, take-home pay and work have been placed under unrelenting pressure.”
This policy was based on a “befuddled, muddled and failed economic prescription.”
Clancy said there was a positive agenda for public service reform – but it had to be based on quality and values, not “blunt cost-cutting”.
“If the government wants a battle, they will get it,” he added. Although Prospect wanted to avoid further industrial action, it was making plans and would take it if necessary. “Our members are closer to that yes box on the ballot form. It is a last resort, but they are closer to it,” he said.
The government's pay policy and proposals for regional pay not only penalised the poorest workers but professionals, too. IDS research for Prospect and the FDA had shown specialist median pay lags 21-33% behind comparable roles in the private sector.
On jobs, Clancy said that Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude’s civil service reform plan failed to provide a basis for fair or sustainable change.
“Francis Maude’s plan espouses further cuts and outsourcing; it promotes expansion of the ineffective shared services model; and it ducks the central question about the purpose of the civil service.
“It appears that the job cuts target will be achieved by using a discredited performance assessment system that will penalise people who don't get on with their manager.
“This is despite the latest evidence from the CIPD that the key – and growing – challenge facing public sector employers is actually to recruit and retain skilled managers and professional staff.”
Clancy said the lack of any real plan was highlighted by the Public Accounts Committee last month, and in the comment of a Conservative member of that committee that “although departments have moved quickly to reduce staff numbers, few appear to be giving thought to how they are going to operate permanently with a lower number of staff.”
He highlighted the irony that the Ministry of Defence – one of the fastest cutting departments – had had to recruit a temporary civil servant to undertake work on the reform plan because no one was available with the required skills.
Prospect is calling for:
- a pay review body for the wider civil service, with the power to consider evidence relating to civil servants by function or professional group
- a reward strategy for specialists
- greater flexibility for arm’s length bodies to determine pay from within their own resources
- a skills audit that provides an accurate and comprehensive basis for skills planning.
The motion was moved by Unison and also supported by FDA and PCS. It also called on the general council to:
- continue to campaign against government attempts to impose regional pay
- promote a living wage
- use the October 20 demonstration to draw attention to the economic consequences of the government’s distastrous economic policy
- co-ordinate unions which take strike action to challenge austerity policies that are loading the costs of the crisis on to workers in both the private and public sectors
- ensure there is an effective skills strategy to underpin delivery of high-quality public services and advice to government
- promote a positive vision of public service provision.