Prospect said, on behalf of 900 members based in VOA’s 85 offices across England, Scotland and Wales, that the result reflected the anger among members at an offer which is below inflation, over seven months late and leaves members’ pay lagging behind civil service colleagues and way below market rates for surveyors.
85% of members voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike. It follows an earlier ballot held in December where members emphatically rejected the tabled pay deal which provided a general increase of only 1.25% – well below even the Treasury’s stringent 2% cap.
The action takes the form of a ‘non co-operation’ period, with a ban on overtime, staff only working conditioned hours, banning all out-of-hours coverage and encouraging staff to take proper lunch-breaks and regular screen breaks. It will begin on February 27 and is expected to lead to a backlog in survey and valuation work undertaken across the country.
Prospect National Secretary Geraldine O’Connell said: "Our members at VOA work to ensure that property tax systems across the country are implemented in a fair and impartial manner but the treatment they have received is far from fair.
"The chief executive has outlined his vision to turn the agency into a World-Class service by 2010 but he is expecting staff to do this on third-class pay.
"Morale was already at rock bottom with staff struggling to maintain the service and meet government efficiency targets while watching their pay fall further behind not only private sector comparators but other public sector colleagues."
A planned merger in April 2009 with The Rent Service – paid between 5-7% more than VOA staff – will bring the issue even more sharply into focus, warned O’Connell, adding: "Against this background staff are expected to swallow what amounts to a cut in their pay."
Two specific protest days have been identified where members will only work their core hours of 10am to 1pm. On the first, February 29, members will be encouraged to follow the National Trust’s example and use the extra time for environmentally friendly activities while on the second, March 14, they will be urged to take part in Sport Relief.