Like the NCA, the NCOA has been involved in the Pay Review Body process since 2013. The Agency’s decision to rely on closer engagement with Treasury and Home office officials has, in our opinion and experience of the process, had a negative impact on any ability to adhere to the timetables set out by the NCARRB in order to deliver your annual August pay award. The NCA pay process has now faltered on 7 occasions in its short history, whilst the other 7 pay review bodies continue to meet timetables and deliver timely cost of living pay awards.
We can logically conclude that the Agency must bear some responsibility for what now appear to be perennial issues, which saw the 2022 pay award delayed by 7 months. Whilst other pay review bodies have now published their ratified recommendations for 2023, the NCA process for this year has not even started. In any prolonged cost-of-living crisis such delays are unfathomable if not outrageous.
The trigger for the 2023/24 process is the remit letter which remains unhelpfully absent as parliament closes for the summer recess and not reopening for business until the 4th September. If last year is anything to go by, there is a very real danger that not only is a pre-Christmas pay award now highly unlikely, our concern is that we could be moving closer to a position where there is no annual pay award made at some point in the near future in order to introduce a blunt method of realigning a pay process to the timetables met by all other pay review bodies.
Whilst we have been able to provide limited financial support to members struggling to cope at this time, it remains the case that the responsibility to secure an annual pay award for staff rests with your employer and its timely engagement in the pay review process. The intolerable position with the delayed 2022 Pay Award and now the 2023 pay process has once again led the NCOA to reach out to its membership to identify the strength of feeling regarding taking action at various levels.
The NCOA is aware and fully understands the ‘no strike provisions’ placed on officers with delegated operational powers by virtue of Section 13 of the Crime & Courts Act 2013 which states,
13. NCA officers with operational powers: Labour relations (1) A person must not induce the Director General or any NCA officer designated under section 10 to withhold (or to continue to withhold) services as an NCA officer. (2) The duty imposed by subsection (1) is a duty owed to the Secretary of State. (3) A breach of that duty which causes the Secretary of State to sustain loss or damage is to be actionable, at the Secretary of State’s suit or instance, against the person in breach.
Sub-sections 1-3 are referred to as the ‘no-strike provisions’.
The purpose of this survey is not to induce anyone to break the law but merely to identify through a consultative process, the appetite across our entire membership to take part in industrial action or withdrawal of goodwill in response to an abject failure by the Agency and the Government to deliver a 2023 pay award. It is therefore important that you consider and answer each question to reflect your own views and not the views of others.
When we undertook a similar exercise last year, a number of members chose not answer some important personal questions which were deliberately included in the survey. By way of an explanation, if in due course the NCOA decides to push forward with any form of industrial action (where legally permitted to do so) it is critical that the member data which we hold and rely on is both current and accurate.
Whilst we commit that we will not share the information secured as part of this consultative ballot, it is important that we are able to confirm that where, for example, a member says that they would be willing to take part in industrial action – that our records support their lawful ability to do so. If there is a discrepancy or doubt, then we will reach out to individual members directly to confirm any queries which might arise.
Accurate member data is critical to any ability to lawfully support industrial action, therefore please contact membership if you have moved house, changed your name, role grade or powers in order that we can be confident we have accurate data which can be relied upon. We will also be sending out an auto data refresh link to all members to make the process as painless as possible for you.
What might Industrial Action look like? The survey poses a number of questions which refer to the two recognised types of industrial action – striking and industrial action which falls short of strike action. An additional question seeks to identify your position on the withdrawal of goodwill.
Strike Action – this (subject to the strict criteria laid out in the Trade Union Act 2016 being met), will see you protected in law from withdrawing your labour on a particular day/days for which you will not be paid. You cannot be punished for taking lawful strike action.
Action short of a strike – this will usually involve a refusal to perform what are considered normal work responsibilities - including a ban on both contractual and non-contractual overtime.
What might a withdrawal of goodwill look like? Within the Agency, many employees ‘go above and beyond’ in order to get the job done, which often means not getting paid for some of the work they deliver on behalf of the employer. This includes turning up early, going home late without additional recompense. Sometimes, individuals will do so willingly because they want to be seen to get the job done, others though feel compelled to do so for fear of being ostracised.
The same scenario exists with flexitime and TOIL being the preferred payment vehicle for additional hours worked – in complete contradiction of existing policies implemented by the employer. For the majority of officers there is no contractual obligation to deliver ‘On-call’ – for those who joined the Agency before October 2019. On call for these officers is voluntary, and in any withdrawal of goodwill scenario, officers would only deliver what they are contractually obliged to do.
Whilst withdrawal of goodwill is not industrial action, we are acutely aware of the personal financial impact on those who might strike or take other industrial action within a split workforce – this survey merely seeks to establish an ‘indicative’ position at this stage. Were we to move to a binding industrial actional ballot for those who are permitted to take industrial action, the NCOA will consider and present a position on how we can provide tangible support should thresholds for action be met.
I would urge each of you to complete this important consultative ballot, by using the following link - www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZZJFM36
The ballot will close at 5pm on Friday the 4th August 2023, following which, the results will be analysed, anonymised, and shared with members and the Agency itself. This will include how many members took part in this survey and the responses provided.
The NCOA commit that we will not share any personal information which might identify any of our members with the NCA or workplace reps.
Simon Boon - NCOA General Secretary