Congress recognises that the last year has seen committed public servants left with no option but to strike in pursuit of higher pay rises in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis following over a decade of pay restraint.
All this as our already stretched key public services have struggled to recruit and retain the staff required to deliver the quality services the public rightly deserve. Many public sector workers voted for strike action to protect the services they have committed their lives to.
Congress notes the very different experiences across sectors of pay for members being determined by a pay review body (PRB) and the near collapse of the system in the last 12 months.
Pay review bodies were intended to bring industrial peace, depoliticise bargaining and, through evidence-based approach, help public services address some of the key strategic workforce issues. Governments, of all colours, have interfered in this process so much that the independence of those bodies has been critically undermined. The government has used pay review bodies as a buffer against union action in a period of high inflation.
PRBs can only function effectively if they are independent of interference and direction by government and the evidence of all parties carries equal weight. Unfortunately, in recent years that has not been the case.
During the industrial action disputes of the last 12 months, we have seen some evidence of government and unions negotiating directly and coming to agreements without the involvement of the PRB’s – even if the government has had to dragged to the table on occasions.
As our public services face up to the challenges of the future, a new compact between government and public servants is needed. Pay review bodies have a critical role in ensuring the government is able to deliver quality public services and they can only do this if they have an independent voice, free from political interference.
Congress agrees that collective bargaining is an appropriate vehicle for pay determination for many unions facing hostile employers, and that it can facilitate member engagement in pay campaigns and their outcomes.
Congress agrees that effective review bodies must:
i. have greater remits that give better weight to all of the evidence presented to them, not just the short-term affordability of government
ii. enhance the engagement process with unions
iii. deliver timely pay settlements
iv. enable the longer-term evolution of pay structures and multi-year deals
v. limit the influence of government on appointments.
Congress calls on TUC to:
i. work with unions in different sectors to produce a model template for PRBs and work with affiliates in either making sure that PRBs are fit for purpose or other methods of settling pay, such as direct negotiations, are promoted if more appropriate.