Scotland’s civil servants offered 4% pay rise

By on 28/05/2018
The Scottish Government Buildings on Calton Hill, Edinburgh (Image courtesy: Trevor Hannant).

The Scottish Government has offered its civil servants an inflation-busting pay rise for 2018-19 that is worth at least 4% for the vast majority of staff.

Scotland’s civil service unions, which are balloting their members on the offer, have hailed it as a “clear break from the austerity agenda”, a triumph for collective bargaining, and a model for future engagement with ministers and officials.

The deal comes as the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Britain’s largest civil service trade union, prepares to ballot its members over strike action on pay.

A very tight cap

Public sector pay increases in the UK were capped at 1% for six years, following a two-year pay freeze from 2010 to 2012 for all public sector employees earning over £21,000 (US$28,000) per year. The government announced last year that it would scrap the pay cap, but earlier this month told the PCS union that it does not intend to fund pay rises above that figure and that any increases will have to be found by departments from existing budgets.

Scotland’s finance secretary Derek Mackay pledged in June last year to scrap the 1% pay cap for Scottish Government civil servants in the 2018-19 budget, as we reported at the time. Any Scottish Government deal will apply only to employees of the devolved administration, not to the wider UK government civil service employees based in the country.

The Scotland branches of PSC, the First Division Association (FDA), Prospect, and the Prison Officers Association (POA) have mounted a joint campaign to break the cap through negotiation with the Scottish Government.

Springtime in Scotland

FDA national officer for Scotland Allan Sampson said the offer is the result of “constructive dialogue with ministers and officials” and “sets the standard for future engagement”, as reported by the Edinburgh-based Daily Business news website.

“The lifting of the 1% pay cap was long overdue and has enabled the unions to negotiate a welcome pay rise for Scottish Government workers that marks a first step towards addressing years of pay erosion,” he said.

Prospect’s national officer for Scotland Richard Hardy said: “This pay offer represents a clear break with the austerity agenda. It’s a tribute to the strength of conviction and campaigning by all our members across the Scottish government.”

Derek Mackay, MSP, pledged in June last year to scrap the 1% pay cap for Scottish Government civil servants (Image courtesy: Johnclarksnp).

Hardy said in a statement that the deal includes pay progression for all civil servants who were in post on 30 November last year, and the “vast majority” of staff will receive a pay rise that is above the rate of inflation.

“In combination with the pay award negotiated in autumn last year, the offer means that, in the year April 2017 to April 2018, members will have seen their consolidated salaries grow by at least 4%,” he said.

Variable picture

The Scottish government sets the pay for some 485,000 public sector workers in Scotland, amounting to around 90 per cent of the total. The pay of NHS staff across the UK – including Scotland – is set by the independent NHS Pay Review Body.

In its manifesto for the June 2017 general election, the Conservative Party pledged to maintain the 1% pay cap until 2020. But Theresa May’s minority Conservative government announced in September that it would lift the cap in England and Wales by giving ministers “flexibility” to set higher pay levels department-by-department in response to staffing “pinch points”.

At the PCS annual conference last week, delegates voted overwhelming in favour of a ballot on strike action, after the UK government turned down its request for a 5% increase across the board. The poll is expected to take place in June.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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