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Tuesday 10 August 2021

Equal Value, Equal Worth: Fiona Eadie reflects on the historic COPFS pay deal

By Fiona Eadie

Secretary of the FDA’s Procurators Fiscal Section Fiona Eadie reflects on the historic pay deal achieved for members in COPFS and the success of the ‘Equal Value, Equal Worth’ campaign.

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I joined the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Section almost 20 years ago (my ‘long-service award’ beckons for February 2022!) and it was clear to the FDA even then that COPFS staff were being paid far less than colleagues doing comparative jobs in Scottish Government.

This was borne out by a “comparability study” that COPFS agreed to fund, which provided the basis for pay discussions in the years that followed. By 2007 however, it was obvious that insufficient progress had been made towards pay parity, and members voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action. It was at this time that I became more involved in the union and I recall the unfamiliar territory of strike planning meetings with our then National Officer, Jim Caldwell. It was only as we were on the brink of strike action that we secured the involvement of Scottish Ministers and additional funding to bring us closer to rates of pay in Scottish Government.

However, in common with the rest of the public sector, years of austerity and pay freezes followed the 2008 financial crash, and the pay gap widened further. We took time to raise the profile of this long running dispute and to build support for our case – I gave evidence several times to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee and we demonstrated that, within just a few years, someone joining COPFS would be paid £94,000 less than a comparative colleague in Scottish Government. We secured the support of the Law Society of Scotland, made our arguments in the press and met with the Justice spokespeople from each party. Our members lobbied their MSPs and we organised a postcard campaign to the then-Cabinet Secretary for Finance (CSF).

Crucially, we established positive and constructive dialogue with the COPFS senior management team, including the Crown Agent, David Harvie. Where previously the department did not accept the comparison with Scottish Government roles, we now worked with them on preparing a joint business case, submitted in late 2019, seeking funding to address the long-standing pay inequity. Political engagement was also vital - our Negotiator Allan Sampson’s meetings with CSF Kate Forbes were critical to secure the deal’s funding.

Understandably, our focus shifted to the pandemic response through much of 2020, but this again highlighted the huge value of the job we do - as keyworkers continuing to work and attend courts throughout each lockdown. Therefore, when additional government funding was again not forthcoming, the PFS Section agreed to conduct an indicative ballot on industrial action. We set up a pay campaign group which focussed on our communications strategy, which was vital as we entered the latter stages of the campaign.

I know some people questioned the timing of our decision, but the circumstances highlighted the injustice and the message it sent about the value placed on our work. Any doubts were quickly dispelled when the results showed 95% support for industrial action. It was now absolutely clear that we were serious and had wide support, and detailed negotiations finally took place. In March 2021, we received a pay offer that will finally deliver pay parity and this was overwhelmingly accepted by our members.

There is still much work to be done to implement the deal over the next three years, but already some of our members have seen pay rises of up to 24%, and next year, others will receive over 19%. The real success, however, was securing the political and financial commitment to keep pace with salaries in Scottish Government in the future.

I am enormously proud to have been part of a campaign that demonstrated the effectiveness of collaboration and partnership working. It has been very challenging but also hugely rewarding, involving many union colleagues – some now retired – who all deserve credit for building and sustaining our position to eventual success.

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