There has been widespread anger at the news that the Ministry of Defence has paid over £47 million worth of bonuses to 50,000 civilian staff for ‘outstanding performance’. The negotiated pay deals saw the civil servants earning an average of just less than £1,000 each. By contrast, a Private in the British Army earns less than £17,000 a year.
Defence Minister Kevin Jones revealed the figures after a written question in Parliament. The revelation comes at a sensitive time, when British forces are suffering serious casualties in Afghanistan, there are calls for more Helicopters, and all armed forces face a savage defence review after the next general election.
There is something fundamentally at odds here. On the one hand the MOD is lavishing bonuses on civilian staff, while looking to make cuts in front line services. There is nothing wrong with employing civilians: in many cases it makes much more sense to employ civilians than have the job performed by a serviceman. Administration, for example, can be performed just as well by a civilian worker. Arguments that civil servants often go into the front line shows the extent of cuts to the services. Personally, I feel that any military-related job that entails someone going into harms way should not be performed by a civilian.
The MOD and civil service unions argue that the payments come from central salary budgets, were already negotiated and have no effect on operational spending. However, this does not add up. Anyone with a simple understanding of Government spending knows that it is quite simple to make savings in one area to transfer the surplus to another.
Not only does this show that the MOD’s values are not the same as those of the armed forces,and that the Government’s priorities are not with the men at the coalface, it sends a disgraceful signal to soldiers, sailors and airmen, and their families. In my own experience, if you cannot subscribe to the values of an organisation, you should not be working there. Hence, I feel that to work in the MOD and accept bonuses, all the time that our armed forces are under such difficulties, is immoral.