In direct response to the delayed 2023-24 pay process, the NCOA opened up a consultative ballot to understand the implications for staff during a hard-hitting cost-of-living crisis and what industrial action (or other action) individuals might be willing to take to demonstrate their dissatisfaction at the employer’s consistent failure to land an annual pay award. The ballot ran between the 24th July and Friday the 4th August and the results are unambiguous.
Unsurprisingly, member engagement saw an increase from the strong position reached in the 2022 ballot and reflecting on those outcomes, we included distinct questions aimed separately at those with and without operational powers (recognising the associated legal restrictions which limit the ability to take industrial action). Consequently, we now know that by focussing on our non-powers membership that 53% supported Strike Action, and 82% supported Industrial Action short of strike action.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of NCOA members do not have operational powers and so, despite the significant appetite for industrial action from those who took part in the ballot – less than 50% of our non-powers membership actually took part in this exercise. Therefore, when transposing these results across to any legally compliant industrial action ballot – this would not have met the legal threshold for any industrial action.
Despite the significant legal restrictions which affect any workers considering industrial action, the Agency’s inability to realise its early ambition of a workforce where 90% had operational powers, sees it slowly morphing into an organisation which is not as insulated from damaging industrial action as was intended by the 2013 Crime & Courts Act. Ten years on, under 37% of the Agency have operational powers and the current position on pay is clearly testing the patience of those who do not have additional restrictions placed upon them as employees of the NCA.
Unless the Agency is able to sort out what has now become a perennial pay debacle, and the creaking pay structure - whilst also increasing the number of officers with delegated powers, the spectre of strike action could be a very real problem in the not-too-distant future.
Putting the legal restrictions to one side, what this exercise delivers is an unequivocal position on the withdrawal of goodwill. A huge 92%, (which included an overwhelming majority position from our 'with delegated powers' group) support this effective response to pay award failures at the top, from across the non-powers/powers split.
Given the fact that your annual pay award will not be paid in August (the remit letter which triggers the annual pay award process has still not been published), and 94% do not think the Agency is doing everything it can in the current cost-of-living crisis, it seems entirely appropriate that a coordinated response by NCOA members in the form of withdrawal of goodwill from that date, should now take place.
For the benefit of the doubt – any withdrawal of goodwill does not mean that you should refuse to work overtime for payment. There is a contractual expectation that you may have to work additional hours which is supported by policy which says you can choose the compensation method. Given the delayed pay award (and so far, elusive £1500 non-consolidated bonus) we would actually encourage you to work additional hours for enhanced payment (where permitted and able).
No Department or Directorate is exempt from the working hours operating procedures relating to overtime - or more importantly, your own contracts of employment.
Nearer the 25th August, it is our intention to contact you all again to help co-ordinate activity which will ensure that you are paid appropriately for the work that you do but also that you are able to draw a distinction between what you are required to do as an employee - and your private time beyond that 37/40hr week.
Simon Boon - NCOA General Secretary