Civil service trade unions launch legal action over implementation of new pay cap

Government, Cabinet Office

Three trade unions representing more than 200,000 civil servants have jointly launched legal action in a dispute over the government’s implementation of a 1.5% pay cap for civil service employees.

The FDA, Prospect and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PSC) began proceedings yesterday (Wednesday 8 August 2018) to gain a judicial review of the government’s consultation over the 2018-2019 civil service pay guidance, which was originally published in June 2018.

In this guidance, the government specified that its departments, such as the civil service, will be able to make pay awards between 1% and 1.5%, after the abolishment of the public sector 1% pay award policy in September 2017. The guidance states that pay awards exceeding 1.5% can be given, but in exchange for plans to improve productivity. The guidance defines this as a pay award and not a pay cap.

The trade unions are arguing that the government did not consult on what it describes as the new civil service pay cap, and that it did not trust the trade unions to keep the proposed figures confidential during the negotiation process.

According to Prospect, the aforementioned trade unions sent a letter to the government on 17 July 2018, asking for the pay guidance to be withdrawn or legal action would be initiated. Prospect states that the response from the government’s legal department has been to deny that the Cabinet Office intended to consult on the pay framework figure, with a letter directed to the unions’ lawyers saying that the trade unions had no legitimate expectation of consultation.

Dave Penman, general secretary at the FDA, said: “To add insult to injury, the government’s defence of its shambolic consultation process on pay for hundreds of thousands of civil servants is that they never intended to consult us on the new pay cap and rushed the guidance out because they didn’t trust us not to leak the 1.5% figure. This, more than anything, demonstrates the perilous state of industrial relations in the civil service.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary at Prospect, added: “By refusing to consult on the remit guidance in any meaningful way, the government has demonstrated a disdain not only for the unions, but for hundreds of thousands of loyal, hard-working civil servants. By treating civil servants differently and worse than those employed in other parts of the public sector, the government has shown how little they value their vital contribution.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary at PCS, said: “Not content with reneging on its commitments to engage in consultation on an issue as fundamental as our members’ pay, the government is now adding insult to injury by claiming it never intended to consult in the first place. This shambolic state of affairs cannot go unchallenged and we will now pursue this matter to the High Court.”

The government civil service is unavailable for comment at time of publication.