Survey: the civil service
Over four percent but still low paid
By a civil servant
In the case of the firefighters the Government say that there can be no increase in the local authorities' pay budget above 4% unless there are significant (in their case drastic) changes in working practices.
They give the impression that the rest of the public sector has had to make the link between modernisation and pay increases.
But in the civil service this is not the case. Over the years many deals have been struck above 4% without the modernisation strings attached.
For example, this year the civil service union, PCS, signed a deal worth a 5.5% increase in the pay budget, in the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP). Some staff saw pay raises of over £2,000. That is not to say that the DWP deal was a good one - far from it, as it had large elements of performance related pay and it was targeted at more senior grades. But it was a "normal" type of settlement in the civil service. A type that has been happening for years.
A 5.5% increase in budget can mean, depending on how it is cut up, that some groups of staff could have had a 16 or even more percentage increase in their pay.
Deals worth more than 4% in the budget have been occurring for years. This is not to say all is rosy in the pay garden - low pay is endemic in the civil service, with over 60% of staff earning less than £20,000. But there are large numbers of staff earning above the firefighters aim of £30,000 who have not been subjected to large scale re-structuring of work.
Apart from the introduction of information technology and the work consequences of that (something that all office based staff have been subjected to, whether in the public or private sector), staff on £30,000 have seen relatively little change in work practices for many years.
There are tens of thousands of people in the civil service earning £30,000. Across the civil service the number of these people probably approach the numbers of firefighters.
Again it must be emphasised that the civil service is not some sort of easy going, highly paid area. For example thousands earn below £10,000 a year, a majority earn below £16,000. Since 1979 over 200,000 jobs have been lost, in many areas workloads have greatly increased. But these cuts in staff and increases in workload were not linked to pay increases.