Thursday, November 12, 2009

MOD bonuses - why do people talk such nonsense?

I see that there is another story in this morning's papers about bonuses paid to civil servants, in this instance at the Ministry of Defence. And yet again, levels of outrage are high, predominantly from those who, I note, aren't civil servants. Might I politely suggest that, before getting on their high horse, they actually find out why these bonuses have been paid (yes, and that includes you, Mr Reeves...)?

You see, contrary to popular opinion, most civil service employees are equally opposed to bonuses linked to performance, and yet these have been foisted on us by governments who seem to think that they improve performance. Actually, for the most part, they are subject to arbitrary guidelines whereby generous managers will reward quite ordinary performance whilst others only reward the sort of performance that Stakhanov would have been proud of. An amount of the paybill is ring-fenced for bonuses, and the amount of bonus received is related to the number of those deemed to qualify. So, if everyone works hard and exceeds their targets, the incentive (bonus) is reduced.

The bonuses take no account of the range of jobs performed, and rely on monitoring systems which encourage staff to focus on easy tasks, a greater number of which can be delivered than those more complex, more time-consuming ones. There are no standards applied across the piece, so that the reward for performing to a certain level in Stockport, for example, may vary wildly from that for a similar performance level in St Austell. In short, it is a dog's breakfast which gives the impression of rewarding performance whilst actually empowering local managers to reward their favourites in some cases.

This Party does have a record of kicking civil servants, and I don't expect that to change any time soon. However, we have votes too, and whilst politicians have every right to comment on the effectiveness of a policy, they also have a responsibility to treat people with respect, especially if they're planning to ask those very people for that vote at some point in the future. After all, hypocrisy is such an unfortunate word...


Andrew Reeves said...

I don't have an issue with them being awarded bonuses, I do have an issue when soldiers serving on the frontline are having to go and buy bits of personal uniform themselves.

The Government were quick to freeze and scrap other pay awards in other departments, why not these?

Mark Valladares said...


Because they haven't frozen or scrapped pay awards. These are increasingly part of three-year pay awards, mostly imposed rather than accepted - the last two HMRC pay awards have been imposed, for example.

So, when you read that a recent civil service pay deal is for, say 1%, that's the increase in paybill - at the upper end of the pay scale, that's likely to mean no pay rise at all, and the bonus pot is included.