The offer represents an 11.3% increase to the VOA paybill over three years and will deliver average base pay rises of 12.2% to staff.
However, the offer does include changes to some working arrangements.
VOA’s branch executive committee is recommending that members accept the offer – but was guarded about some of the unwelcome changes.
“On balance, we believe this offer is a significant opportunity to improve the VOA pay system, in particular for surveyors and for those at the bottom of the pay scales,” said negotiator Rose Willis
“We know that a very small group of staff will not do as well as others. But 94% of staff will receive consolidated pay rises of more than 6% over the three years.
“We believe this is still a better offer than could have been achieved by a possible 2% maximum remit a year for the next three years, which was the most likely alternative. It also provides some certainty on pay over the next three years as we go into Brexit,’ added Willis.
The main elements of offer are:
- consolidated pay rises from 1 August 2019, 2020, 2021 for those not above any new pay band maximum
- additional non-consolidated pay rises to form a minimum pay award of at least 2% (consolidated, non-consolidated or mixed) per person per year
- creation of a new qualified surveyor pay scale
- 75% reduction in non-consolidated bonus pay pot from 1 April 2020, (this has been moved to consolidated, pensionable pay)
- phased removal of the intermediate pay zone from 1 August 2020, with unlimited mark time pay if assimilated above the maximum of the national scale
- home-based workers in the London pay zone who live outside the M25 will move to the national pay zone from 1 August 2020
- compensation payments for any increased pension contribution occasioned by late payment of 2019 awards
- removal of flexi clock hours restrictions (formerly 7am to 7pm)
- all remaining banked leave to be used by 31 March 2023
- all overtime for all grades at plain time rate (PTR), except Bank Holidays PTR x 1.5
- less formal flexitime arrangements for Grades 6 and 7
- all paid travel time at plain time rate, except Bank Holidays PTR x 1.5
Creating the qualified surveyor pay scale is a significant achievement. It secures recognition for the surveyor role and allows them not to not to be limited by comparison with other generalist civil service SEO grades in the future.
The higher minimum and progression awards within the ranges (up to 20% in some cases) will help those who have been stuck at the bottom of the ranges, and make the VOA more attractive to new surveyors who are desperately needed.
Changes to flexitime, overtime and paid travel time
The overtime and travel rates proposed by the VOA are not as good as they were, but Willis pointed out that overtime is not a reliable source of income and is not pensionable.
From the anonymised pay data the union has seen, increases to basic pay over the three years should far outweigh any loss to take home pay in the reduction in the rates for overtime and paid travel time for the large majority of people.
“Prospect believes that periods of continual overtime demonstrate a shortage of staff and should be rectified through recruitment,” she added.
Although flexitime will still be available for Grade 6 and 7, it will be managed informally.
“This is where we do have the most concern about consistency of approach and the potential for members to be working without pay or time off remuneration in future,” said Willis.
She urged members to continue to use the flexi clock system to provide evidence of their hours worked. This will be important if there is disagreement over time to be taken off in the future, and for the union to review how this informal system works in practice.
The balance of staff in the pay ranges will rise from 60% below the midpoints to 99% above the midpoints in the pay ranges, and 65% on the new maxima by August 2021.
Although some staff are moving between pay zones, there is unlimited mark time pay built in to protect their salaries.
Changes to zones will take effect after the first year pay rises allowing for some initial pay growth (subject to capping) before mark-time is applied. No members will have to work increased hours.
Prospect also secured a commitment to a review of the new working arrangements after six months.
“The Cabinet Office pay business case clearance process is gruelling and VOA had to fight for a long time to get agreement to this one. Prospect does not believe that this is fair or sensible.
“The government should fund civil service pay systems that deliver competitive rates and progression properly as a matter of course, and employers should not have to engage in bartering anything for pay rises,” Willis concluded.
The ballot will close at noon on 26 February 2020.
The consolidated and pensionable pay rises for each grade over the three years of the deal:
Grade More than 10% More than 8%
G6 72% 91%
G7 77% 78%
SEO valuer (new pay scale) 88% 89%
SEO 84% 90%
HEO 62% 77%
EO 68% 86%