Welcome to my Blog

I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Public sector bonus payments

Much wittering this morning from the UK Government about bonus payments to senior civil servants and NHS managers, amongst claims of "bad behaviour, spending decisions taken in the last year or so of the Labour government". I suspect we will hear much more of this as aspects of the Con-Dem budget plans prove to be unsustainable.

They should perhaps be careful over condemning bonus payments. It was after all the last Tory government that introduced them along with a whole series of changes that sought to copy private sector practice. Performance Related Pay (PRP) was another, along with managers being given voting rights on the boards of public service organisations.

I have negotiated the introduction of these schemes in the public and the private sector. I have seen little or no evidence that these schemes deliver improved productivity. The surprisingly limited academic studies are also at best neutral on the issue. In one private sector sales department I negotiated a very attractive (and costly) bonus scheme. At the end of the first year the league table amongst the sales staff did not change at all - but they all sold less!

In the public sector ethos PRP and bonus payments are even less relevant. Some of the Scottish schemes were rightly criticised by the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee last year, in their report on public sector pay. Scottish Water being one of the worst examples. The argument being that they have to 'compete' with the privatised industry in England. Wrong, we have a public water service in Scotland that should be run with a public service ethos.

Interestingly the practice of directors voting rights has survived even in NHS Scotland. The Scottish Government, despite many positive NHS reforms, has left these in place. Even after the introduction of pilot schemes for direct election to health boards. Not at all clear to me why ministers have clung on to this Tory practice that does not fit in with their vision of a mutual more democratic NHS.

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