Tuesday 3 February 2015

ICO staff on strike today

Well, well, well.

For the first time that I can remember, staff at the ICO are striking for two days in protest over their pay rates, which are apparently lower than those for equivalent jobs in the civil service, often by several thousand pounds per year. What I do know is that the pay of many staff significantly increases when they transfer to the private sector to deal with privacy issues from the perspective of the data controller, rather than the regulator.

The people I meet that work at the ICO are clever, sophisticated, and knowledgeable about the law. They are also realistic about how the law works in practice. Many are also battle weary. It can’t be an easy job, facing what must often appear to be a tusamni of dreary news, of battles yet to be fought, and lack of much positive feedback from individuals and organisations that are grateful for the advice and assistance that has been supplied.

I do accept, of course, that I have only met a small proportion of the ICO’s staff.

In my lifetime, the world of work has changed. Jobs are no longer for life. Job mobility is here to stay. The fact that we love our job is no longer a reason for an employer to feel obliged to continue to employ us. The mindset at work has to change.

But this works both ways.

As employers recalibrate the relationship they have with their workers, staff are also free to consider their own positions. Indeed, they need to take a greater degree of control over their careers.

Staff that are unhappy in their current roles should seriously consider leaving them.

Employers, in these awful financial times, are less inclined to offer pay rises simply because staff want more money. What is more pressing is the cost of a replacement employee. If high calibre candidates are only available at a higher cost, then market forces should raise the salaries available to suitable staff.

If the impending “Diregulation” finally makes its way through the European parliamentary institutions, then staff with different sets of skills may be required at the ICO, as the regulator’s role will undoubtedly change.

So, pay rates within ICO teams will continue to differ. And not everyone in every team will receive the same type of bonus – or annual increase, for that matter.

If there is a (relatively) silver lining to this unhappy state of affairs, I understand that staff within the Ministry of Justice, the ICO’s sponsoring department, probably feel even more unhappy about their lot than those plucky folk in Wilmslow.