Member's goodwill scheduled to officially leave the building
You will recall in my last message to you that the continuing failure of the Agency to land the 2022/23 pay award delivered a very clear response in the consultative ballot which closed on the 5th December. Although matters are complicated by the no-strike clause affecting officers with delegated powers, almost 90% of those of you who responded from across the powers divide, made it clear you were frustrated and would be willing to withdraw goodwill.
As per my pre-Christmas update, the parliamentary recess in December made it clear that a January pay award was becoming highly unlikely with the Agency also deleting all scheduled pay meetings from the calendar.
Our first 2023 pay meeting with the Agency did not take place until the 12th January where, frustratingly we were presented with an Agenda bizarrely making no reference to the 22/23 pay award. We secured an immediate addition to the agenda to ensure that the most important pay issue now affecting all staff was given airtime - no matter how embarrassing the issue has now become for the NCA.
In subsequent discussion we were informed that although there were imminent meetings planned with the relevant government departments, the Agency had still not been able to secure your pay award. Whilst we believe those meetings have now taken place, having asked the Agency what the response was - we have not been provided with any additional information. Having subsequently been informed that Thursdays scheduled pay meeting on the 19th was only ‘tentative’, it is our assessment that there has still been no movement. (Meeting cancelled 18th Jan).
Some time ago we were given advance notice of planned visits by the National Crime Agency Remuneration Review Body (NCARRB) who, in addition to seeking direct engagement with staff, sought a meeting with us in order to get the ball rolling on the 23/24 pay award. Whilst the current situation is absolutely not down to the NCARRB (they have made their pay recommendations) to meet with them now to discuss what might happen in the current pay round (23/24), is a ridiculous proposition which ignores the current crisis in NCA pay.
Historically, the NCARRB recommendations have set the benchmark for cross Agency pay awards. We have supported this approach, as has the Agency. Up until the delivery of the NCARRB’s 22/23 pay recommendations, HM Treasury also supported this approach. However, this now appears to be the single issue which prevents them from agreeing your much needed pay award - an award which is now quite staggeringly 171 days late.
All parties involved in the annual pay discussions are fully aware of this sticking point and we were therefore surprised to hear that the NCARRB were also scheduled to speak to officers without delegated operational powers. The 22/23 process has sadly provided us with clear evidence that the NCARRB is unable to influence the Government to deliver parity in any ‘all Agency’ pay awards - particularly for those who do not sit within their remit group.
In order to engage in any ‘meaningful’ 23/24 pay cycle process, we have made it clear to all parties that the NCOA requires resolution to the 22/23 award in the first instance - given that this will form the basis of our next submission. We also need to see the Government’s pay remit letter which dictates the parameters within which the ‘independent’ NCARRB should frame their recommendations. This letter has not yet been written.
Within the media you will no doubt have seen the considerable resistance at government level to meet/discuss/negotiate on pay with the various Trade unions currently supporting staff taking industrial action. Even with this powerful bargaining chip to influence and encourage discussions to deliver a solution, it remains a hard-fought battle with significant pain for those who make a stand.
Focusing on the NCA operating environment, we are not even fighting for more pay beyond the ridiculously and cowardly embargoed NCARRB recommendations - we are merely asking for them to be made public (to you) and that they are implemented with immediate effect.
Despite the platitudes delivered at ministerial visits to Agency sites and NCA operations on the ground, we have no wish for you to be disrespected like NHS colleagues with a weekly clapping display to demonstrate how much we are valued - we want our 2022 pay award. Hard cash counts - especially in a cost-of-living crisis which is recognised everywhere - except the National Crime Agency it seems.
Although we do not have a mandate, or in reality the legal right to take industrial action at this time, we do have every reason to withdraw the goodwill that makes the Agency tick more smoothly than it is contractually entitled to.
Goodwill is delivered across the grades and roles to deliver beyond employee obligations. Given the strong message you sent us in December, we agree that continuing to deliver goodwill in the absence of any 2022 pay award is no longer appropriate. We have now written formally to the Agency to advise them that the NCOA will be supporting our members with their withdrawal of goodwill - until such time the Agency secures the 2022/23 pay award for all officers.
- Do you turn up early for work and flip on the computer irrespective of your start time and then continue to work until your scheduled finish? This is an act of goodwill and not a contractual requirement.
- Do you work beyond your normal scheduled pay hours for no additional benefit (pay/toil/flexi)? This is an act of goodwill - you are entitled to receive recompense for any additional hours worked.
- Do you miss your 30min lunch break entitlement away from your desk? This is an act of goodwill - your contract says you should have one. It is your responsibility to take it to ensure your health and well-being as a valued employee.
- Do you often take bags of Agency equipment home to charge up or store, in order to save the Agency time by travelling the next day straight to another place of work - rather than keeping it at the office and picking it up en route? This is an act of goodwill to help the Agency deliver more efficiently.
- Do you deliver either an informal On-Call service without reimbursement or always remain contactable when not at work? Both are acts of goodwill. If the Agency requires you to be available beyond your working day to respond to an unplanned ‘work’ event they should pay you as per the current On-Call policy.
- Do you feel pressured to deliver an ‘On-Call’ function (with or without payment) because of managerial style or real/perceived risk to overtime/annual leave requests? Putting aside any potential grievance or complaint you would be entitled to make - are you aware that delivering any ‘On-Call’ function in contractual terms purely voluntary and therefore an act of goodwill unless you joined the Agency after 2019?
- Do you deliver additional working hours requested by your manager for no additional compensation - whether that be overtime, flexi, or TOIL? Whilst we strongly encourage you not to do this (we are regularly informed that ‘overtime is not available in my department’ or ‘we are only allowed to work flexi’) if you are doing so willingly - this is goodwill.
No Department or Directorate is exempt from the working hours operating procedures relating to overtime - or more importantly, your own contracts of employment.
At the very least, you must be paid at the Agency’s documented enhanced overtime rate for any pre-authorised additional hours worked. You may choose to accept enhanced TOIL rates instead.
Do you travel to and from training events under the belief that you are not entitled to overtime, despite the fact that the lengthy travel either side of the training will see you exceed your normal working day? Over time, the travel to training issue has been misinterpreted and inconsistently applied across the Agency. If you are travelling in your own time or not receiving adequate compensation for working beyond your normal working hours - this is an act of goodwill.
Whilst the Training Department often shortens classroom time to minimise working additional hours at training events - the geographic spread of the Agency workforce means this still does not eradicate lengthy days for all officers.
The Training Department is also very clear that they will not authorise overtime for attending these events - and nor should they, they have no idea where you live nor what your normal home to work travel time should be. This does not mean that you cannot claim overtime - just that the responsibility to authorise it rests with your local management. In most work areas this has been delegated down to supervisors at G4.
In basic terms, excess hours are excess hours irrespective of whether they are linked to training, court attendance or administrative functions and as such you are entitled to receive the appropriate compensation.
When it comes to ‘excess hours’ as a result of travelling to or from a training event, pre-authorised enhanced overtime is the norm but if you would like enhanced toil or flexi instead - that is with your agreement not edict or pressure to do so.
Given the 6-month delay to your pay award I believe there could not be a better time to stand up and be heard by encouraging each and every one of you to think about what and why you do things for free - and then simply step back from delivering goodwill. This is symbolised as an Agency employee, by voluntary acts which actually only benefit your employer and extend beyond any contractual requirements you must fulfill.
Although we have chosen not to apply to join the TUC, you will no doubt be aware that they have recently announced a national right to strike day, scheduled for the first week of February. Whilst we know only too well how difficult it would be to coordinate strike action within the NCA, this activity presents us with an ideal opportunity to focus on the 30th January as a start date for the withdrawal of goodwill by NCOA members within the National Crime Agency.
That said, should there be any meaningful pay award developments ahead of the 30th January, we will report them to you as soon as possible.
Simon Boon - NCOA General Secretary