By John Moloney
The Treasury has imposed a pay cap on many parts of the Civil Service. They are saying that about 60 bargaining units (the Civil Service is divided into 173 different pay areas called bargaining units) should only get increases in their pay budgets of between 3.2% (if the mandarins think the bargaining unit is a "good" payer) to 3.7% (if they think the bargaining unit is a low payer).
This pay policy has lead to a impasse with the managers in the bargaining units asking for more than the pay cap and the Treasury refusing to allow extra spending.
This has posed a challenge to the left led National Executive Comittee of the (civil service) PCS union. When the union was under right wing control bargaining units were left to sink or swim.
The new NEC has decided that solidarity between bargaining units is needed.
Accordingly on the 18 August reps from the pay areas met to discuss what to do next.
It was agreed that a national campaign with national circulars was needed; that the union would co-ordinate industrial action if bargaining units went into dispute. Somewhat disappointingly though plans for town rallies and a protest day of action have been held over to be decided at the September meeting of the NEC (which will be held on the 2/3 September) rather than arranging them now.
A meeting has been arranged with the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Boateng (the architect of the pay cap) for 4 September. At that meeting senior union officials will ask the Treasury to take the chains off and allow the bargaining unit managers to enter into "free collective bargaining" with the union at a local level.
An emergency meeting of the NEC committee that handles pay has been arranged for the 8 September. That meeting will decide, depending on Mr Boateng's response, what to do next.
It is likely that the Chief Executive will decide to keep the cap on. If he does then the 60 or so bargaining units will automatically be in a dispute. As these pay areas cover well a 100,000 staff co-ordinated action could be highly successful in challenging the pay policy (on which the union was not consulted or even told about). The alternative to such action is for many staff to get sub-inflation pay rises. Moreover the cap will stay in place for next year when it will affect all bargaining units in the Civil Service. In these circumstances we will have no option but to stand firm and take action.