Fair pay review must reward specialists, union urges


Fair pay review must reward specialists, union urges

Half the professionals in the civil service (48%) and its agencies say their pay structure is unfair, and only 35% believe it is fair, an online survey by Prospect has revealed.

The findings form part of Prospect’s submission to Will Hutton’s Review of Fair Pay in the Public Sector for the coalition government. The survey found:

  • 57% of respondents believe the pay structure does not fairly reward specialist skills. Only 30% think it does
  • 53% think their pay structure is unfair in relation to the private sector. Two-thirds of these add that lower pay in the public sector is no longer compensated for by job security or other benefits. Only 25% find their pay structure fair
  • 51% of female members, 55% of black and ethnic-minority members and 59% of those with a disability describe their pay system as unfair.
Of 30,000 members sent an email link, 7,735 responded to the survey, 90% of them specialists. Go to the library for the full response and survey results.

Prospect head of research Sue Ferns welcomed the very high response during three weeks in the August holiday period. “Members want the system changed, but want Hutton to focus on fair pay for specialists,” she said. “They are not being properly rewarded, leading to difficulties recruiting people with the necessary skills and experience at these levels.”

Respondents believe a proposal to introduce a 20:1 ratio between the lowest and highest paid civil servants would make very little difference to mainstream civil servants – only one in five say it would make things fairer.

Ferns said a 10:1 or 15:1 ratio might make more difference. “More relevant is the need to link into skills and career development and address glaring gaps in labour market information. For example, the government’s chief scientific adviser does not know how many scientists and engineers are employed by government, let alone their areas of expertise or locations.”

The top three fairness criteria requested by members are: pay rises that reflect increases in the cost of living; recognition of professional and technical expertise; and a clear expectation of how to progress up the pay band.

Examples of disciplines where there is currently a shortage include: the Ministry of Defence, (where 2,000 hard engineers and scientists left in 2009 and there are more than 3,000 vacancies); traffic technology specialists; bridge and structures experts; quantity surveyors; civil engineers; project managers; oil, gas and nuclear specialists; mining, electrical and mechanical engineers; construction specialists; and graduate scientists and engineers. None of these posts is at a level that would be affected by a 20:1 ratio.

Other issues raised by Prospect’s evidence are opposition to the introduction of regional pay in a national labour market, and resentment at unfair differentials for the same disciplines between departments and agencies.