New government plans will mean that workers doing the same job, at offices just miles apart, could be paid salaries that are hundreds of pounds different.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) wants to impose a new regional pay system on workers in crown, county and magistrates’ courts.
This would mean that workers in the north of England and Wales would be paid less than workers in the south.
The vast majority of court service workers in Wales, and those in England north of Kings Lynn, would be put into the lowest of five proposed pay bands. A DCA spokesman said, “Regional pay reflects the reality of the job market in this country.”
The PCS civil service workers’ union said the starting salary for those in the lowest band would be around £11,700, compared with £14,400 for employees in other parts of the country.
Dave Vincent, the joint vice president of the PCS in the DCA, told Socialist Worker, “Gordon Brown is the architect of this plan.
“There was a need for a pay and regrading review as workers from the magistrates’ courts have recently been brought into the civil service.
“But the DCA has gone for the cheapest possible option. If the government brings regional pay in here, it will try to implement it in the rest of the civil service, and then across the public sector.
“Workers in the courts are very badly paid. Even by 2010-11 people won’t be on the pay average that most of the rest of the civil service was on in 2005.
“This is also a four year deal, and with inflation running at 4.6 percent that is a real worry. The union won’t be able to go back next year and ask for more money.
“The lowest paid workers will be in Wales and the north of England. Even within cities there will be different pay rates because areas like the three mile radius around Manchester city centre will be designated as hotspots.
“In these hotspots the rate of pay will be higher because it is more expensive to live. But people literally yards outside the hotspot will be paid much less.
“Admin assistants outside the hotspots will be paid £800 less than those working inside them. There will be a £1,500 difference for admin officers.
“I have been doing workplace meetings to explain the issue to members and telling them they need to reject the deal in an upcoming ballot. People are gobsmacked and angry. I’m hoping that we have an overwhelming rejection of the deal.”
If the government gets away with imposing this deal, which section of public and private sector workers will face the same attacks next?
Jeff Evans, the PCS’s senior national officer for Wales, said, “Wages in Wales are, on average, 13 percent lower that the British average. Any reliance on market forces to determine regional public sector pay rates would disadvantage Welsh workers.
“The imposition of regional pay could seriously hamper national assembly efforts to reduce the prosperity gap between Wales and the rest of Britain.”
Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, said, “These proposals are not only scandalously unfair but will entrench the north-south divide by driving down pay in some of the most deprived areas in the country.
“Civil service pay is already riddled with inequality and the fear is that with government departments seeking to push down wages, these proposals represent the thin end of the wedge.”
The issue of different regional terms and conditions is also affecting the private sector.
Tesco drivers at a distribution depot at Livingston near Edinburgh are campaigning over what they see as “divide and rule” between England and Scotland.
Tesco is trying to impose new terms and conditions on the drivers including the derecognition of their T&G union, when their depot moves 500 yards across the road. The changes would put the drivers on worse terms than drivers doing the same job at depots in England.
The T&G has called a special shop stewards’ conference for workers across Tesco on Wednesday 11 April.
Go to the PCS regional pay map