Plans for three-year pay deals in the public sector will only add “fuel to the fire” of bitter industrial relations between workers and employers, leading commentators have warned.
Prime minister Gordon Brown announced proposals for a multi-year pay deal for all 5.5 million public sector workers last week, replacing the current annual awards.
But employers and trade unions have warned any deal could undermine the current bargaining and negotiating procedures, and hamper future pay settlements.
Stephen Moir, president of the Public Sector People Managers Association, told Personnel Today: “From an employer perspective, [the multi-year pay deal announcement] has been very unhelpful, and will make the climate for negotiating pay settlements that much harder. It will, frankly, add fuel to the fire in terms of union unhappiness with many of the settlements agreed last year.”
He said the announcement showed a “fundamental ignorance” of recruitment and retention pressures faced by public sector employers, as below-inflation pay increases would not help attract the best talent.
However, a multi-year deal could bring benefits when it comes to forward planning, according to Peter Reilly, director of HR research at the Institute for Employment Studies.
He said: “Three-year pay deals allow organisations to plan and structure ahead. But the question is over the balance of the pay deal offered, and what people are being asked to do. The smaller the sum, the less employees feel like they are being properly rewarded.”
Martin Tiplady, HR director at the Metropolitan Police, said: “I am interested in what a three-year deal might look like, but I am disappointed in the outcome of the 2007 deal. The Police Federation [representing officers] will need to consider any new deal in light of what happened last year.”
The Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, which represents all chief officers in the UK, warned the government needed to get its judgement “exactly right”, or risk a demoralised workforce.