The brilliant journalist Carrie Gracie has taken a stance over pay inequality and transferred (some said she quit) from her role as BBC Chinese editor to the BBC newsroom team. It was a noble decision but a great loss to those of us who admired her Chinese related reports.
Pay inequality discussions tend to focus on salary differences based on gender. But in the UK civil service pay inequality does exist but not gender related.
UK governments like to lecture other employers on pay inequality . Yet the said governments have allowed unfair pay structures to thrive under their noses for 3 decades across the civil service.
In the 1990s, the Conservative government decided to delegate human resources strategic (incl. pay and salary) responsibilities to each government department to handle independently.
Some government departments used this new found autonomy to bump up salary structures. Some other government departments took a moderate approach and kept their salary scales conservative.
[The less said about how recruitment and promotion practices became corrupted]
This has led to many staff across the civil service performing the same role, in the same grade (sometimes the same building), same length of service, but paid vastly different depending on their government department.
Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) is widely known as one of the most poorly paid government department for admin and middle management grades. DWP is also the most challenging government to work at, especially for frontline staff handling welfare payments and job seekers. Given the abuse they regularly face from the public.
Departments such as the Treasury and especially HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on the other hand pay their staff vastly better wages. Home Office and Department of Health pay scales are sandwich somewhere between DWP and HMRC.
Simply there is no pay consistency at admin and management grades across the civil service.
An Executive Officer (EO) at HMRC can earn as much (sometimes more) as a Senior Executive Officer (SEO) at the DWP; even though the latter is 2 grades higher and has far more responsibility and staff to manage.
You would never hear of civil servants transferring permanently to the likes of DWP due to its lower salary structure. Even if such a transfer could mean promotion.
In 2003, Gordon Brown – then Chancellor of the Exchequer – mooted the idea of merging Customs and Excise with the Inland Revenue. Staff in both departments hated the proposal. This was due to long standing cultural animosity that existed for between both departments.
Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue staff did not feel the merger was feasible due to the salary differences that existed between both departments
E.g. Higher Executive Officer at Inland Revenue could earn £6-£10k more than their counterparts at Customs and Excise.
In 2005, Gordon Brown pushed through the merger. In one single month Brown upgraded the thousands of Customs and Excise staff salaries to match their Inland Revenue counterparts. Customs & Excise staff felt happy with the sharp pay increase while some Revenue staff were livid at salary upgrade for their new colleagues.
Some government departments would advertise their vacancies without disclosing the salary for fear of turning off potential applicants.
Yet trade unions and politicians have sat back and watched this unfair pay practice to thrive for decades. While lecturing the private sector on gender pay equality.
But with BREXIT looming now is a perfect time for a universal salary scale to be gradually implemented across the civil service. Pay inequality based on which government department employs you is simply unfair to its staff, future recruits and tax payers.