Members of the Prospect union have written to Matthew Hancock, business and enterprise minister, calling on him to allow the Met Office the freedom to manage its reward system and pay fairly compared to market rates.
The letter comes just days before Met Office staff are set to begin a programme of industrial action starting with action short of a strike on Thursday 19 February.
The move includes withdrawing ‘goodwill’ and additional support beyond normal duties to fix unexpected problems in the forecasting system that could threaten public weather forecasts and services to business. Staff plan to follow this up with a three-hour strike and walkout on the afternoon of Thursday 26 February.
In the letter to the minister, the union argues that the continuing pay freeze is damaging an otherwise successful, efficient and growing business by limiting its ability to recruit the specialist skills it requires.
On behalf of over 950 members, Prospect negotiator Helen Stevens said: “Our members are loyal and committed to their work, but they believe that the current pay policy is damaging the Met Office’s ability to serve its customers.
“In his speech to the British Chamber of Commerce (10 Feb 2015) Prime Minister David Cameron urged successful businesses to pay their employees more. The Met Office is a successful Trading Fund that returns profit to the government and can afford to reward people properly at no additional cost to the public purse, but it is not permitted that freedom.”
Met office staff fear that without the flexibility to pay fairly:
- Staff will stop acting outside their normal duties and fail to take on additional work to prevent the forecasting model from failing
- The taxpayer will not get the full benefit of the £97m invested in the service’s new supercomputer – valued at £2bn over the project’s lifetime – because the Met Office will not be able to attract and retain the skills required to make the best of the facility
- Women will continue to be discriminated against because the modernised pay system, designed to close the gap between men and women’s pay, is not being allowed to work.
Stevens said: “Our members are reasonable people who have tried to resolve this through other means but have found the Met Office has its hands tied behind its back.”