‘Formal negotiations’ with unions begin on DEFRA pay rises

Formal negotiations with civil service unions have now begun over DEFRA staff pay rises, according to reports.

Staff were given this update in an email from DEFRA permanent secretary, Tamara Finkelstein, and second permanent secretary, Nick Joicey, on 14 November, according to Civil Service World.

The email said the approved case is “less ambitious” than the one DEFRA submitted in July, according to the news outlet, however the permanent secretaries said they believe their proposals “represent the best possible outcome we can achieve for as many employees as possible, within the constraints we continue to face”.

The details of the new pay deal have not been made public yet, however both DEFRA and Natural England asked ministers to exceed the 4.5%, or 5% civil service cap on pay rises for the lowest-paid staff. 

Ministers granted Environment Agency managers permission to use budgetary staffing underspend to negotiate a new pay offer – exceeding the civil service cap – earlier this month, which resulted in a planned four day strike action being called off. 

The DEFRA pay rises are also set to be funded by the department’s existing budget. 

The email seen by CSW said: "If we can't reach a settlement with the trade unions, we will review our position and update you."

The permanent secretaries said they will try to backdate the pay rise to July to be reflected in colleagues' December pay, however they said the “timeframes are very tight”. 

The news comes after increasing concerns about morale at DEFRA and other civil service bodies. 

READ MORE – The DEFRA Dispatches:

A DEFRA spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury on the pay flex case and are pleased that this has been accepted. We have now begun negotiations with our trade unions.”
A Natural England spokesperson said: “Our negotiations have now reached a stage where we have been able to provide the trade unions with our formal offer. They will now be sharing this detail with their members.”