Civil servants could get pay rise after all

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CIVIL servants are set to receive a 1.5 per cent pay rise, if the government approves the results of arbitration.

The Government Officers’ Association took its 2010/11 pay claim for civil servants to independent arbitration after members rejected the zero per cent pay deal offered by the Civil Service Commission as part of the public sector pay freeze last year.

The union announced on Friday that arbitrators had recommended a 1.5 per cent across-the-board pay increase.

In addition, it recommended a £200 one-off non-pensionable, non-consolidated payment to those earning under £25,000 per year for those who haven’t received an incremental increase in the year 2010/11.

These are subject to approval by the governor in council (effectively the Council of Ministers).

When asked about the union’s reaction to the result, GOA negotiations officer Angela Moffatt said: ‘How we feel is irrelevant. Once arbitration is entered into by both sides the outcome is binding – so how you feel about it makes no difference.

‘Certainly, arbitration is always a failure – as you only use this process once negotiated agreement cannot be reached.

‘In the current climate, no one can be pleased about any of what is occurring across the island – we certainly do not feel triumphant about this and that is never an appropriate response on any level.’

She added: ‘Ultimately, it is how our members feel about it that matters, as that is who direct our action and who we are answerable to as a union, and we have not got enough feedback yet to be certain of what that feeling is.’

The government has a freeze on salary budgets. When asked if the union was concerned the pay rise could be detrimental to workers by increasing the risk of redundancies, she said: ‘As a union we go to arbitration on the decision of members, and our members clearly understand the constant threats that have been made to them about their jobs.

‘It says a lot that the majority are prepared to go to arbitration anyway i.e. most are not buying the line that jobs will ultimately be saved by sacrificing pay.

‘We are concerned that the announcement of further changes to the VAT agreement this week could be the real precursor to redundancies across Government, with harmful wider effects across the whole community, but that this pay decision will be blamed instead.’

She said she didn’t know how many staff would be affected as the Civil Service Commission had failed to provide the GOA with figures.

Last September just under 60 per cent of the 1,700 members returned the ballot on the zero pay offer, with 93 per cent of those (898) voting against the deal.

Miss Moffatt added: ‘It’s ironic that a government that led the expansion of the public sector, authorising the creation of often high cost permanent new posts over years – objected to consistently by this union, I might add – and who do nothing to lead by example and put their own remuneration packages in order, will attempt to blame unions and their members for the current mess.

‘We simply don’t and have never have had the power to create or stop the expansion we’ve seen in the public sector – and not just the civil service.’

The 2009/10 zero offer resulted in the issue being decided by an independent arbitrator.

It was decided that staff should be given a £200 lump sum payment.

Civil Service Commission chairman John Houghton MHK was unavailable for comment as the Examiner went to press.

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