It has often been difficult over the course of almost two years to sort claim from counter claim and reach a balanced view about just how fair Birmingham City Council’s pay and grading review really is.
Clearly, any salary shake-up involving 40,000 people, designed to iron out pay inequalities, is going to throw up winners and losers and result in friction between management and trade union activists. With a small number of individuals standing to lose more than £12,000 a year from their pay packets, the opportunity always existed to present the changes as wicked in the extreme.
As the 4,500 appeals against grading lodged by council workers begin to unwind, however, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the pay review has the look of an unfair and dangerously botched exercise. With 81 per cent of appeals heard so far resulting in a revised grading, and a pay rise, it must by now be dawning on the council’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that the job evaluation exercise undertaken to award pay grades in the first place was so seriously flawed that it is almost certainly open to legal challenge.
The appeal process is starting to show that the task of evaluating thousands of different jobs, placing a value against their worth, was simply beyond those tasked to undertake such exacting and sensitive work. It has become obvious that serious mistakes were made, triggering very real human misery among the 5,000 workers who were told their pay was to be cut.
An ominous question lurks in the background: what options remain open to the 35,500 employees who did not appeal against their new grading and are now being told it is too late to do so? We cannot be alone in supposing that the M’learned Friends will be the main beneficiaries of the pay and grading review.