It’s a strange feeling knowing you may be made redundant within the next few months. Technically it’s termed “Redeployment”, where those unfit for purpose through a competency based exercise are placed into a “pool” to fight for the odd job or two that crops up. I wouldn’t really refer to it as a pool either, when there are thirty people already swimming in it, with a few dozen more soon to armband up and wade into the shallows. It will need to be Olympic sized for comfort.
And so, in early July I have to submit my application form, consisting of four competencies amounting to no more than 200 words for each, demonstrating my ability. A job 8 months ago I secured (I use that term loosely) against 84 candidates and 4 interviewees. What a poisoned chalice it’s turned out to be.
The odds certainly weren’t in my favour then, and they certainly aren’t now. Several hundred management of my grade are subject to this exercise, with 40 to be made redundant redeployed. I make that 1 in 5, which suggests on my team alone one colleague is going to be saying their goodbyes very shortly.
I’m certainly not averse to the prospect of cut-backs and tightening ones belt. The private sector during the recession was hit hard and fast, with little more than a brown envelope being placed on some poor souls desks indicating you were to pack up, and ship out. In other businesses a meeting was held, X-Factor-style, where if you were unlucky enough to be in the reject room (complete with screams of joy from adjacent rooms) then you knew your time was up and it was time to say your good byes, even before top-brass officials opened their mouths. “I’m coming to get you!”, certainly wasn’t being screamed by Davina McCall. So why should public sector workers be the exception?
Still, there is consolation that the public sector has lasted this long without staff postings facing the axe. We have been insulated for far too long, with an air of divine right for job security creeping out from many quarters. That this exercise within our department shouldn’t even be happening. That no public sector workers should lose their jobs.
It’s certainly not a pleasant exercise, lives will inevitably be ruined, but it is certainly one of necessity.
The chorus of anger towards public sector workers has grown over recent months. Jibes from MPs desperate to make a name for themselves, a new government keen on austerity and wishing to demonstrate restraint, coupled with predictable newspaper hysteria has created a real anger amongst the general public. Stories of senior management on more money than the Prime minister certainly doesn’t aid our defence. £150,000 a year for anyone is more money than most will see in a life time, and is more money than anyone needs to earn, to live a life of luxury.
The head of my department is paid £299,996 pounds per year. Which after tax roughly equates to £14,000 per month. To put this in perspective, the lowest grade in our organisation is paid £14,043 per year. Startling really, when you consider that not only do these early grades provide a fundamental role, but there are so few of them that you would think they cost the earth. But of course, such a head of department will tell you that there simply isn’t the money available within our “affordable structure” to recruit more. Perhaps there would be if the individual took a pay cut of 75%.
What I find incredibly frustrating, is how we are all tarnished with the same brush, that the horror stories of staggering pay are only ever highlighted, instead of the financial struggles the lowest grades face every month. The public sector within the United Kingdom covers almost every aspect of our lives, from dentistry to the National Health Service, social work to dustbin men. It is unfair through averaging salaries, to suggest all public sector workers are paid on or above the national average, when such grossly exorbitant senior management salaries skew the results.
You may also read that our final salary pensions are “gold plated”, that when we retire it will be a life of luxury. To dispel this myth, I pay £65 per month into a premium pension. My latest statement, if I continue to work for the next 40 years at the same grade, continuing to make the same payments (taking account of inflation), shows my final pensionable salary per year will be £14,366 alongside a lump sum. A very respectable wage I might add, considering I will have contributed £31,200 over that same period. Sadly, I’m hardly going to be purchasing a private island any time soon.
And while this figure may be more than many already earn in a year, it is the reason why I chose my job. For the remuneration package in its entirety, and not the net pay at the bottom of my pay slip. If I were to transfer to my local University, at the same grade undertaking a similar role, I would be paid seven thousand pounds more, but receive less flexible working hours and a poorer pension. But the government doesn’t mention any of this when it talks about harsh choices, and fairness for all.
If you were to hand me a clip board, I could happily hand you a list of 200 names, within a hour, of those I have worked with who simply do not deserve to be supported by the public purse. The “I’m-a-civil-servant-they-can’t-sack-me” attitude is all too prevalent within the public sector, where personal and professional accountability is last on long list of priorities, where middle managers entrenched within the organisation have no drive or care for their job or their staff. Long term sickness, flexible working hours and diversity are abused, and are such a drain on our organisation that for this to be rectified would save the business considerable time and money and naturally reduce the need for redundancies.
Watching Dispatches last night, one particular member of the Treasury Committee was verbalising that a civil servant who earns £25,000 per year should have their wage cut by £2,500, followed by an increase in pension contributions of £1,500 per year. An effective cut of £4,000. And while it would certainly save the UK economy several billion pounds, such measures seem not only broad sweeping, but also reckless and would yet again have a catastrophic effect on peoples lives.
I couldn’t help but wonder how much she was paid per year, and how she would feel if I were to slash her pay to £25,000, just to see how should would cope.
At the time of writing, the budget will be announced today within the next ten minutes, and will set out a raft of measures to tackle Britain’s yearly deficit of £155 billion pounds. I worry though, that civil servants are the easy option in an exercise of saving-money-by-numbers. I have already braced myself for far worse cuts than we are currently experiencing.
To digress, there are two sayings that have caused me to develop an odd habit over the last few years, “See a penny, pick it up and all day long you have good look” is the first, and “All good things come in threes.” the second.
When I find three 1 pence coins anywhere, I put them into my wallet and keep them for as long as possible until the luck I need, on a certain occasion has come to fruition. Oddly, three days after discovering I had to re-apply for my job, I found six 1 pence pieces. The week leading up to my job interview, I also found six 1 pence pieces.
Perhaps it’s a sign of better things to come.
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