Select Committee on Treasury Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Public and Commercial Services Union

  1.  The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is by far the largest union representing civil servants, with a total membership of 274,000 working in the civil service and related areas. PCS is the largest union within the Office for National Statistics (ONS), representing over 1,000 members.

  2.  PCS is submitting brief written evidence to the Treasury Select Committee inquiry into the 2001 Census in England and Wales, as we believe the 2001 Census has had an adverse affect on this year's ONS pay.

  3.  In July 2001 (without any advance notice to the trade unions) Len Cook the Head of ONS (National Statistician and Registrar General for England and Wales) issued a notice to staff saying that the pay negotiations would not start until September because of the emerging overspend of the 2001 Census. This caused concern and outrage among our members who were due pay increases from 1 August 2001.

  4.  The trade unions (PCS, IPMS and FDA) had jointly submitted a pay claim in May. Pay negotiating meetings had been scheduled for July and August, before being cancelled. Subsequent to the cancellation of pay talks the unions made representations to Len Cook and he agreed that negotiations could start in mid August in advance of the pay remit being cleared by the Treasury. This was to avoid delays in reaching a final settlement.

  5.  Negotiations started but were adjourned in September as ONS management needed to clear amounts and get their remit authorised by the Treasury. Negotiations were resumed at the end of October as the clearance of the pay remit was imminent. However, we are now told that the remit has not been cleared by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and we believe it is because of affordability in relation to the Census overspend.

  6.  PCS finds it unacceptable that ONS staff are suffering because of the mismanagement of the Census by senior ONS management and their contractors. The majority of staff employed by ONS have not been involved in the Census work and it is not acceptable that their annual pay increases have been affected by such an overspend. PCS members were due a pay increases from 1 August 2001 and that has not been delivered.

  7.  We are also concerned that as a result of the overspend the money that might be allocated for pay this year will be reduced. Again this is unacceptable, particularly as our members' pay will fall behind other civil service staff employed by other government departments and agencies.

  8.  Finally, people taken on to deal with the Census Coverage Survey have also had problems in getting paid for their work and expenses incurred. Though not representing them, PCS has been approached about the problems they have had in getting reimbursement. One example, from a Team Manager, was being owed over £1,000 that had been outstanding for two months.

  9.  PCS also believes that there are additional lessons to be learnt on the handling of this year's Census, particularly in relation to the contracting out of the processing work. However, the more immediate problem is the withholding of pay increases from ONS staff because of the overspend.

  10.  We are of course happy to supplement the above with oral evidence.

12 November 2001

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