Civilians on strike over pay dispute

UP to 800 civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence and Passport Office, including staff at RAF Wyton and RAF Brampton, stayed away from work last Friday in protest at a below-inflation pay rise - a settlement that had been imposed by the Government w

UP to 800 civilian employees of the Ministry of Defence and Passport Office, including staff at RAF Wyton and RAF Brampton, stayed away from work last Friday in protest at a below-inflation pay rise - a settlement that had been imposed by the Government without agreement for the sixth successive year.

But in a separate dispute about combining MOD agencies and moving many employees from Huntingdonshire to the south-west, trade unions claimed they were having some success.

Public and Commercial Services Union branch secretary Angela Powell said: "Hardworking civilian staff who support our armed forces operating around the globe are angry about the high-handed way management has imposed what amounts to a real-terms pay cut. Battered by massive job cuts and privatisation, dedicated staff have become increasingly angry with the Government using their pay as an anti-inflationary measure.

"Thousands across the MoD and civil service earn just above the minimum wage, and a quarter earn less than £15,400. It is high time the Government and civil service management started respecting its own workforce and started negotiating with the unions to avoid further industrial action."

But the threat to move thousands of civilian jobs away from Huntingdonshire seems to be receding.

"They are back-tracking as fast as they can," Angela Powell told The Hunts Post. "We are still seeing people transferred to the private sector, such as BAe, but only in small numbers.

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"We are winning that battle, but this one is about pay. A lot of the lowest-paid are below the EU poverty threshold.

"They are imposing 2.5 per cent on us, while the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, and other Ministers are getting 66 per cent and senior civil servants are getting bonuses of £4,000 and the armed services between five and 30 per cent. They do a very special and difficult job, but they are already on quite good salaries."

Ms Powell said the MoD had "lost the plot" on plans to co-locate the Defence Logistics Organisation (the major employer at RAF Wyton and Brampton) with the ministry's procurement arm. "Nobody has any clear idea about what's going on. They still want to move people to the south-west, but they don't know who. It's chaotic."

A spokesman for the MoD said the strike had had no discernible effect on the bases' work. She said other trade unions had accepted the offer that was backdated to last August.

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