Jacob Williams
Thursday 21st February, 2013

Pay and grading review

Pay and grading review

As a brief preface to the very current pay and grading review, under equal pay legislation, claims have cost the council a lot of money.

Last summer out of court settlements cost the authority £3.5m, and to carry on with the current pay system and be open to further challenge was not a feasible option, though it certainly hasn’t been sprung on the council this year.

The authority has historical anomalies going back many years, as far as, if not further than the merger of South Pembrokeshire and Preseli Pembrokeshire District Councils in 1995/6.

With the settling of historical equal pay issues last year, the council was required to put a system of payment in place to prevent similar issues going into the future and to avoid similar claims arising – and that is the current pay and grading review.

It resulted in letters containing good or bad news landing on the doormats of council workers towards the end of January, though school teachers and senior council officers are excluded from this review as they are part of national pay-bargaining schemes.

The council’s idea of plugging up this equality hole is a sweeping change, which the Labour party are describing as ‘draconian.’ A new pay model and new terms and conditions might be going down well with the gainers, but for those who are losing out, the picture is not so rosy.

They are to be given the chance to receive a lump sum payment of the reduction in their salary for one year. It’s branded as a ‘one year hardship payment.’ Adding to the misery of the losers, is that those whose salaries are to gain can receive a year’s back-pay of their extra amount.

Both of these perks are based upon one condition, though. Unison is of the opinion that this condition, and the way the council has gone about conducting it, is a form of coercion, and have doubts over its legality. And in a press release by Cllr. Paul Miller of Labour it is described as: “holding a gun to the heads of worried and vulnerable staff.”

Employees are only able to claim either of these sweeteners if they sign the dotted line by 28th February, which didn’t leave much time for consideration and has caused untold anguish to members of staff already suffering long pay-freezes.

As part of this whole process, jobs were supposed to have been evaluated to see how difficult each role is, the level of skills required to perform it, knowledge, experience and other such criteria. It is a vital part of the process because new pay grades cannot be gauged fairly if the authority’s understanding of the job is not fair and accurate.

There is serious doubt cast over just how accurate the job evaluations have been. Some staff members have claimed to have been graded on job descriptions up to five years old, holding many differences to the functions they actually perform.

The possibility that misinformed data and old knowledge might have been used by the council in coming to its conclusions has been at the front of mind of the unions for a long time. In an ideal world, they told councillors today, every single employee from school cooks to office staff should have sat down and talked through their roles with managers to make up a definitive job profile. Nothing close to this was done.

Instead, it is understood that old job descriptions were run past heads of services or line managers. Basic requests by Unison to see examples of random job evaluations selected by the council were turned down.

I’ve spoken to members of staff who have told of the bizarre situation where they are adamant that their newly slotted role is wrongly based, but are refused access to the job description or criteria used in this review. So not only do staff not know what has been used to grade their pay, but the only way they can find out is if they sign the dotted line and then go on to appeal, at which point, all will have to be revealed.

The message put out by the council is that redundancies are being avoided, and that might well be true, and is surely a good thing, and it was also true that a radical system was required. However, Unison says it has also got proposals that can do the job, more fairly, but which fell on deaf ears.

What I, along with many councillors know on the council’s own review is quite thin. My limited understanding is that 19.4% of staff will gain, 17.8% of staff will lose, and 62.8% of staff will see no change. The corresponding rough figures are 1,100, 900, and 3,500 members of staff.

The only other knowledge I can share, and I am coming near the end of the hard figures, is that nine members of staff will be losing £4-5,000 and 600 will be losing less than £1,000. And that was it, until today’s seminar from Unison.

One fascinating insight that those figures can’t show is where the losers are coming from. The picture portrayed by Unison is that the already lower paid staff will bear the brunt of the losses, and the higher paid will suffer with comparatively fewer.

The figures would seem to support the theory. The following table shows the lowest three grades and the highest four pay grades. You will notice that this data shows a large number of losers in the lower three grades, and a small number of losers in the highest grades:

Grade Losers Gainers
1 122 0
2 139 74
3 319 141
9 8 56
10 3 28
11 0 32
12 0 3

This, Unison says, will do nothing for staff morale, and it would be hard to disagree. Unfortunately, whilst I have neither firm figures nor greater knowledge of the council’s plan, the same can be said of my knowledge of Unison’s plan, but Unison says with their implementation, 53.69% of staff would gain, 9.46% would lose, and 38.86% would remain the same.

Over a five year period, Unison’s consultants believe staffing costs under the council’s own implementation will come to £73,000,000. The five year figure predicted under Unison’s proposals would be 0.3% higher – an increase of £220,000, and, they say, would more fairly and evenly distribute the gains and losses throughout the pay structures.

The Labour party has also picked up on very real concerns about the independence of the appeals system, details of which the council has not yet revealed, even down to the dates of the window of opportunity to submit appeals. And there might be good reason to forget about fixed dates, because next week councillors might get their chance to have their first say in this whole pay and grading review.

At the next meeting of council, on the 28th February – the same day on which the sign-up deadline for the sweeteners falls, there are a number of notices of motions on the agenda relating directly to the pay and re-grading review. Under normal rules, these motions would be automatically referred to committee without any discussion, and be referred back to the following (May) meeting, but Cllr. Paul Miller has requested, constitutionally, that all items of business relating to the pay and re-grading review, of which four have been submitted, be transacted during Thursday’s meeting, without referral.

You can read the agenda on the council’s website, but I have copied the relevant motions below:

Cllr. Paul Miller

“That this council suspend council procedure rule 10.4 in respect of all motions brought to this meeting (28 February 2013) which relate to the Pay and Grading Review.

I respectfully request that this motion be transacted before any other notices of motion on the 28 February 2013.

For clarity this motion is put to allow all such motions, relating to the pay and grading review, to be transacted at the meeting (28 February 2013).”

Cllr. Paul Miller

“That this council resolve that the chairs of all appeals committees convened in relation to the pay and grading review be truly independent.

As such this council directs that an individual may only be selected to chair such a committee where his/her independence has been agreed by the Head of Human Resources at Pembrokeshire County Council and all recognised trade unions. “

Cllr. Paul Miller

“That this council resolve that no member of staff, who does not sign up to the contractual change by close of business today (28 February 2013), will be denied a hardship payment where an agreement is subsequently reached.”

Cllr. Gwilym Price

“That this council requires a review be undertaken of all Job Descriptions and Departmental Operational Procedures, reporting to the Corporate Governance Committee before the end of May 2013. This review shall look specifically at:

1) When the job description for each council post was last reviewed in conjunction with the member of staff in the post to which it relates.
2) The robustness of procedures to ensure an annual review of that job description with the post holder.
3) The current levels of compliance with those procedures, by directorate.

The report shall consider the position as on 28 February 2013.

Subject to its findings this review shall make recommendations for the strengthening of existing operating procedures and better ensuring compliance.

Suggested outcome: Better accountability and transparency between staff and management through a robust quality system.”

Cllr. Reg Owens

“As a result of recent job evaluation findings a large number of staff, many of whom are already on low grades have had these reduced, this will result in tremendous distress and hardship to those affected.

To assist in alleviating this hardship to many key workers I propose that these staff have their current pay and conditions frozen for a period of three years thus giving them time to make the necessary adjustments to their family financial commitments and confirming our position as a fair and compassionate employer.”

It might be too late to make a u-turn, and it’s a big shame that there’s been such a lack of collaboration with all concerned up until this point, but Thursday’s meeting will be quite a test – firstly to see if these proposals are allowed to be voted on, and if so, who votes which way.

A potentially more equal, thorough and fairer method of plugging the pay equality hole may have fallen on deaf ears, but they weren’t the ears of councillors, who are quick to be reminded that this re-grading exercise is done in their name – as the ’employers’ – but without input.

I can’t imagine there are many ’employers’ in Pembrokeshire who are as poorly-informed as Pembrokeshire’s 60 councillors, and, on the whole, it’s certainly not for the want of trying.

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  • On the nose

    Essential car users are also losing out later in the year but they are not mentioned anywhere. Sign up and you agree to ensure you have a vehicle to carry out your duties. More savings for the authority where managers are being rewarded for being bad managers, and where they are still starting employees before CRB checks are being carried out, but they keep telling Cardiff they are good and doing everything right, how little they know.

  • Simply Stunned

    Out of date pay gradings?

    They are using gradings from 2005!

    For god sake, these people who pretend to run are incompetent and if there was any justice in this world, an independent audit of PCC managers should be demanded and carried out!

  • Harfat Girl

    A really interesting and informative article Jacob. It all looks as if it’s been done ‘on the hoof’.

  • Quill

    One of my friend’s neighbours is supposed to be losing about a grand or so which itself is a lot but made even worse by the pay freeze the past few years.

    She was reluctant to sign and hasn’t yet so far as I know, and intended to do it last minute until she read in the newspaper about your meeting on Thursday…but what should she do? She’s in a dilemma – if she signs by Thursday and then the deadline gets voted down by councillors at your meeting does it mean she has signed up needlessly (not to mention against her will) or will everybody who signs up before Thursday have to go back to the drawing board and sign up again if you vote in support of Cllr Miller’s motion?

    Does anybody know? Do you Jacob? Does Cllr Miller read this? That is the question he needs to ask the unions, is this legal because it’s backed a lot of people in a corner with little room to think the implications through.

  • Cllr Paul Miller

    ‘Quill’ – It should be possible for individuals who do not wish to sign to hold on to completed return forms until after the vote on Thursday. If we lose the vote then people will still have a few hours to hand the form in. I believe this will be the unions’ advice.

    In terms of those who have already signed – I will be asking that those who wish be allowed to withdraw their submitted forms but that would have to be discussed and determined after a positive vote.

    On the legal question I do think the threatened withdrawal of the hardship payment (protected period) is legal but I don’t think any reasonable person could think it stacked up on a moral or ethical level.

  • Simply Stunned

    If she’s near one of the Council buildings, e.g. Pembroke Dock Park Street, then as long as it’s stamped on the day, it will count, ie 16.59.59 secs.

  • T. Ken Dupizz

    As well as essential car users losing their allowance, the rate of pay per mile for ‘casual’ car users is also being brought down to the same level. Essential users face a drop of 8p per mile as well as their lump sum allowance of £1,239 pa, but most new pay gradings have taken this lump sum into account, giving staff a ‘pay rise’ to cover their lump sum being taken away in September, but without any net gain. Their travel expenses are kept on a par (albeit swallowed up in their new pay).

    As I understand, those on a casual car user allowance, who may in some circumstances incur heavy mileage due to their job requirements, face a drop of 23p per mile but, as they do not currently receive a lump sum to cover the wear and tear on their vehicles, are in a lose lose situation, as their ‘new’ wage does not take into account any predicted loss.

    All of this appears a shambles to me, especially as the council have had a number of years to sort this out!

  • John Hudson

    County councillors get 45p per mile, a non-taxable limit “fixed” by the Inland Revenue and the Independent Review Panel for County Councillors’ Salaries and Expenses. Most members do not claim expenses now. They do not get any allowance for wear and tear.

  • Undervalued

    I took up my role with PCC just over 5 years ago. At that time I was aware that a pay and grading review was in the pipeline and had been for some time. Having been a shift worker in two previous careers I am well aware of the detrimental effects inevitably afforded to health, social and family life that working 24 hour (actually working not sleeping) shifts can bring. The financial remuneration for this makes it a sacrifice I and my family am prepared to take.

    My family has lost upwards of £5,000. My planned house move has been stopped. My open university course has been cancelled. My feeling of being valued by my employer for providing a continuous PCC point of contact for members of the public, all the weekends, nights, Christmas Days, Boxing Days, New Years Days (none of which I have been allowed to take as leave) has gone.

    I have waited for things to get better. For the last four years my basic “quality of life” bills have bloomed and grown whilst my pay packet has remained stagnant. I think someone, somewhere with a calculator has totally overlooked the actual impact such a massive loss of income will have on some families. I was paid in line with what I do. The pangs of guilt I felt on five of the last six Christmas Days as I worked either a night, afternoon or morning shift (on my own) were quieted by the fact that I was providing a decent standard of living.

    That standard no longer exists. It’s disappeared along with much of my professional self respect. I can see it in my wife’s eyes and hear it in my son’s voice – they feel sorry for me, not themselves. That might be the worst of it.

  • Weasel

    But Mr Hudson, the major difference is that unlike members, staff classed as “essential” car users have a contractual commitment to provide a vehicle at their own cost for council use, and will no longer be reimbursed for that. Contrary to Mr Dupizz’s statement above, this is NOT allowed for in the grading system.

    This results in exactly the inequality that PCC claim they are doing away with, when two members of staff, placed on the same grade supposedly with equal pay for equal work, but one has to provide a car and the other does not.

    As Jim Royle would say…”equality my arse”!

  • Lean

    Undervalued, what do you think of your Chief Executive?

  • John Hudson

    Thanks Weasel, I was just pointing out the few rates that are available for us outsiders to know. I assume the standard 45p permitted by the Inland Revenue allows for wear and tear on cars purchased wholly by individuals.

    Chief officers I understand get an annual money allowance or benefit for a car. I don’t know what mileage they are paid, neither are we allowed to see their mileage expense claims.

    What other staff, essential or non-essential users get, I don’t know. I would have thought that if they are required to have a car, then in fairness they should be allowed money for purchase with a mileage allowance, whereas non-essential users should benefit from a mileage allowance when on council business.

    It is very difficult from the outside to know what is fair but the noises coming from the council do not engender any feeling that fairness has been a consideration, particularly when individuals have not been allowed to see the basis of their grading assessments.

    I think the take it or leave it basis has been built into the national system for years and must assume that an agreed, reasonable, consultation exercise has taken place.

    The equal pay “compensation” exercise was concluded in this way, and is, I think, subject to an appeal process for back pay at the instigation of the courts. This affected low paid staff, mostly women, who had to wait for years for this council, and about three personnel directors, to settle the scheme.

    Goodness knows how much these two schemes have cost, but the council (we) received some £10m from the WAG to cover the cost of the equal pay legislation.

    I am just glad that I don’t work for this council. I have for some years now been following my council, and could only agree with the independent reviews concerning members being kept in the dark by senior officers, very little or no scrutiny by members who mostly exhibit little or no inclination or capacity to challenge officers. It does seem that things are changing on this front.

  • T. Ken Dupizz

    I realise, as Weasel says, that the loss of essential car user allowances is NOT included in the pay structure, but there appears to be instances where it ‘covertly’ is.

    Speaking from personal experience, my colleagues are (until September) on the essential user scheme, whilst I was only given a casual car user allowance when I joined the authority. We all carry out the same duties, share the same job description and all my colleagues have gained in the new structure (co-incidentally the same amount as their soon to be forgotten annual lump sum!) whereas I have stayed the same with no increment at all, and faced with a larger drop in my pence per mile rate.

    Having spoken to others at ‘the water cooler’ this does appear to have been happening elsewhere within the authority too.

    Transparency? Abundance of information? Equality???

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