PCS members at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) had to fight for the pay remit for 2020/21 that was signed off last week.
Each year since 2015 we have got our pay rise later and later but we always got it before Christmas. But this year, it became clear that the Home Secretary hadn’t signed in December and didn’t show any intention of signing at all. Management said we would probably only get 2% backdated to July but lots of us were depending on it to help pay for Christmas. Many of us were disappointed but some were furious and felt it showed no respect for us, even though we had all kept the organisation going through the pandemic. We had moved our members’ meetings online in March last year and have been holding four meetings a month. Often these meetings were about internal staff problems of coping with home schooling and safety issues but we also had speakers from the NEU to explain why schools needed to close and a Manchester University student talking about their occupation.
At the next members’ meeting in the middle of December, we discussed what we could do about this and someone asked if we could ballot over not getting the raise. Someone else said the union (committee) had to make it their priority or we might never get it. Not everyone agreed, some people argued we shouldn’t make too much fuss or we could get even less budget next year and have fewer people doing more work. We’ve had lots of comments recently from some staff too about whether we should be grateful to have jobs when people in the private sector are losing their jobs. But other people argued that some of us have children or partners who have lost their jobs and we need the money to help out. Others said if we don’t fight for this, the government can always take more off us. We contacted our national PCS officer for advice and understood all the problems of the anti-trade union legislation but felt we had to do something, so we raised a dispute with management.
Some of us had written to our MP’s in November and John Spellar MP put a written question to the Home Secretary asking when we were going to be paid. This added to the momentum and we decided to hold a consultative ballot. We held the ballot online and we got 57% of votes for a strike and 80% of votes for action short of a strike. It showed how angry we felt when the demand was simply that we got the planned 2%. At the same time, one of our reps wrote a proposal for free menstrual products to be available in our offices and we took it to the scheduled Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) on 22 December. Management immediately agreed to this. It isn’t perfect when most of us are working from home but it’s a start.
Of course everything was interrupted by the Christmas break but at our next meeting on 6 January we agreed to launch a pay petition for all staff whether members or not and got it drafted. We also decided to contact and invite any other non-departmental public body like us who hadn’t got their pay remit to sign.
It worked, the remit was signed last week and we’re getting our money in February pay backdated to July 2020. But it also got us thinking about how we can go on the offensive to win pay and benefits in ways we’re not used too. There are huge challenges ahead with the planned pay freeze but it shows we can fight and win things even in the pandemic.
Sarah Ensor, IOPC branch sec (pc)
Sarah is a Democratic Alliance candidate for the NEC in the 2021 elections. Click here for the full list of candidates