DEFRA pay offer rejected by largest civil service union

The civil service’s largest union has rejected a pay offer made to staff by DEFRA, describing it as “unfair, unequal and vastly below inflation”.

Photograph: Paul Ellis/Getty Images Photograph: Paul Ellis/Getty Images

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said that the DEFRA proposal for a non-consolidated pay rise was constrained by Treasury guidance, and did not reflect the work that staff had delivered in the last year. 

Non-consolidated performance-related payments are one-off awards made to staff for their performance each year. In contrast, a consolidated award is an increase that is added to basic pay. 

Last month two trade unions representing Environment Agency staff also rejected a government pay offer described as “miserly”.

READ MORE: Why Environment Agency staff feel underpaid and undervalued

A PCS spokesperson said that DEFRA's offer “focused too much on maintaining disproportionate bonuses to those who had exceeded, rather than reflecting on the work all staff had delivered in the last year - delivering Brexit and working through the pandemic. 

“The DEFRA pay offer was constrained by Treasury guidance... PCS rejected the offer as it was unfair, unequal and vastly below-inflation, even before the National Insurance decision by the government.”  

The spokesperson added that the union expects the offer to be imposed by management regardless.

In response, a DEFRA spokesperson said: “As with all civil service organisations, DEFRA is covered by [the Treasury’s] civil service pay remit guidance, and therefore followed this guidance when undertaking this year’s annual pay review.”

According to DEFRA, this pay guidance allows for non-consolidated performance related payments to continue, but makes it clear that non-consolidated payments must be performance related, and not paid to staff regardless of performance, which would preclude the available funds being split equally amongst all staff.

DEFRA added that, as far as it was aware, PCS had rejected all civil service and public sector pay offers where this guidance had been followed due to disagreeing in principle with the pay freeze currently imposed on all civil servants. Therefore, the department said, this rejection would have still been the result regardless of DEFRA’s performance related payments offer.

PCS do say they fundamentally oppose the pay freeze. In their statement, the union said that “most of our members have continued to work through the pandemic and delivered the services that we always have, as well as new services needed due to the pandemic and Brexit”.  

“We believe that the non-consolidated end of year payments should be used by DEFRA to reward everyone for their work in helping the department carry on functioning over the past 18 months”.

PCS said there have been examples of this being done in the civil and public service this year, citing all members of staff in the Department for Work and Pensions having received an equal bonus.

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