WHEN is a pay freeze not a pay freeze?
When scores of public sector workers get incremental wage rises despite government warnings that there is no money to fund pay awards this year.
In the House of Keys, chairman of the Civil Services Commission John Houghton (Douglas North) confirmed that 30 civil servants had been eligible for an incremental pay rise this year at a total cost of £84,244.
From April this year, a further 35 were not at the maximum of their payscales and so would be in line for an incremental increase, at a total cost likely to be £101,752.
And at the Post Office, where staff are being balloted over industrial action in a dispute over pay, 14 employees received incremental increases despite the pay freeze.
The public sector pay freeze was introduced in the wake of the UK government’s decision to redraw the VAT sharing agreement with the island. That meant the Manx taxman was out of pocket by up to £140m a year.
The pay freeze is at the heart of the dispute at the Post Office. The union believes it should not apply to its members. Management says it should.
David Cannan (Michael), who raised the issue of incremental pay rises, asked how the universal pay freeze of government employees was justified, when there was now a ‘two-tier system’ with those fortunate enough to have an incremental pay system but those without ‘disadvantaged in a time of economic stringencies’.
Chief Minister Tony Brown, replying to a separate question from Mr Cannan, confirmed that no senior management posts at Isle of Man Post Office had been re-graded resulting in increased salaries.
But he added: ‘I can confirm that as with all public sector employees, where appropriate incremental pay increases across all areas of the Post Office have been honoured.’
Mr Cannan said: ‘Will the Chief Minister – or can he – understand that when a government brings in a pay freeze, it should be fair and equitable to everybody – not discriminate against those who do not have an incremental salary structure?’
Mr Brown replied: ‘We are not discriminating against any of our employees. Whether they are manual workers, civil servants or others, if they are entitled to increments under their terms and conditions of employment, then we will, of course, honour that.’
Peter Karran (Lib Vannin, Onchan) said: ‘All workers who work for Isle of Man Government have to realise that we are in this together. We have got to be united. If there are going to be no pay increases, then it has to be across the board, as far as all sectors within the workforce.’
Mr Houghton said progress through the pay increments was based on performance but he insisted this was not performance-related pay.
Asked by Graham Cregeen (Malew and Santon) how many had been refused the incremental rise based on their performance, Mr Houghton said the numbers were ‘negligible’.
Post Office authority member Geoff Corkish (Douglas West) said in 2009/10, when there was a general pay increase of 2.5 per cent, 32 staff received incremental increases, five posts were regraded and six staff were promoted. The total cost of this was £73,000 or 0.77 per cent of the basic wage bill.
In 2010/11, when a pay freeze had been brought in, 14 staff got incremental increases, one person was downgraded and there were four promotions.
The total cost was forecast to be £56,000 or 0.6 per cent of the Post Office’s wage bill.