The Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), in their recently-published report on pay, allowances and charges for 2019-20, set out their thoughts on whether multi-year approaches to the Armed Forces' pay round would be appropriate. Multi-year deals are increasingly common in other sectors of the public service, but the Board took the view that multi-year deals would not be of benefit to the Armed Forces:
In this year’s evidence, we were asked to set out our thoughts on whether multi-year approaches to the Armed Forces’ pay round would be appropriate. In our view, there are a number of obstacles to such an approach, not least the lack of employee representation. Multi-year pay deals for other public sector groups have often been linked to major reform and have been negotiated with unions formally representing the employees. There would need to be a clear indication from Government on the available budget for a multi-year deal. In our view, any such multi-year deal would probably require some sort of ‘backstop’ or trigger to re-evaluate indicative in-year increases should the evidential base change, be it inflation, recruitment, retention, motivation or pay comparability. This would effectively remove any assumed budgetary certainty. Multi-year deals could also inhibit our ability to respond promptly to any emerging issues and could undermine our independence.
BAFF believes that the Board's approach is sensible in current circumstances, particularly the absence of any trade union (or other relevant armed forces representative body). While no-one bats an eyelid at the Service Families Federations, the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association all having their say on service pay, none of these respected bodies can claim to represent a significant number of serving personnel across the board.
The AFPRB did, however, say that they "support the multi-year strategy that MOD has adopted in this year's evidence".
In other words, a multi-year approach solely driven by the employer was considered acceptable.
The MOD itself told the Board that
...in the absence of a trade union for the Armed Forces and, therefore, the opportunity for the workforce to negotiate on pay, the Review Body’s independence is vital to ensure that recommendations for a pay award are perceived as a fair outcome for Service personnel.
Having a fully recognised representative body or an independent review body are by no means murually exclusive. The model we advocate is a representative body submitting evidence to the review body. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent BAFF from submitting evidence to the AFPRB.