chapter  5
30 Pages

The United Kingdom

The 1990s witnessed a dramatic reform in the way that the UK paid its civil servants. The old structure of a small number of highly centralised agreements covering almost half a million staff was dismantled. In its place, a system of department and agency wage setting was introduced in which each wage setting unit had the flexibility to set its own rates of pay and establish its own grading structure. This move to a system of pay delegation resulted, in the words of one of the main public sector unions involved in this process, ‘in an explosion of separate bargaining units’ (PTC, 1996). It was a move moreover which was both conceived and implemented with very little public debate and which found many of its participants ill prepared for the changes. In this chapter we set out to analyse the first effects of this development on pay structure in the UK civil service. The full impact of such far reaching reforms will not of course be revealed for some time yet, but this analysis will report the first effects of the changes in pay bargaining systems that were made.