NADPO has been invited to attend the DP conference, as last year, to run a stall. I was really looking forward to going but today I made the decision that I could not, in all conscience attend the conference because ICO staff are scheduled to be on strike on Monday 2nd March.
When I say 'I', I mean as me, the former member of the PCS union (I am not in a union at the moment as I am freelance - although, as someone who is self employed, I really think very little of my boss). I don't mean 'I' as in secretary of NADPO.
I say this because I want to make it clear that the following post is nothing to do with NADPO, or anything personal about the senior staff at the ICO. This blogpost is entirely personal.
I think that anyone thinking of going to the conference who is from a public sector background should consider whether it is right to attend.
The things that I have been turning over in my mind have been:
- every few months, on Twitter, someone spots that the ICO is recruiting staff. We all marvel at how little they are paid (personally, I marvel at how bloody good they are at their jobs on such a paltry budget and individual low pay). I am not going to attend because I support staff, especially those at the ICO, whose low pay I have moaned about, are striking over low pay.
- the low pay harms all DP and FOI officers. We get a poorer service (although it is amazing despite the pay) than we would have if they were paid the same as in most NDPBs or governement departments. There is no way that the case officers are less than HEOs in central government, yet they are paid much less (and they often end up debating cases with people on at least twice or sometimes thrice their salaries).
- the low pay and under budgeting harms the whole FOIA and DPA landscape - the ICO does not have the money it needs to do anything - and has gone so far as to respond to the MoJ triennial review and suggest fees for appeals - this is a clear sign of desperation for an organisation that rightly champions transparency. Also, its DPA work is so underfunded that it can barely lift its gaze from principle 7 issues.
- while lots of really important public sector organisations are underfunded, as DP officers, we are stakeholders (awful word - you know what I mean) and what happens at the ICO affects us.
- finally, I cannot help but look at the material that was sent to me a few days ago, and which I published here. I asked the ICO about the stance that the IC had taken, but there was no reply.
In conclusion, if you want to send a clear signal (not just to the ICO but also to the people that fund it), and if you want to support the ICO in giving its staff more and being able to support the work that you and I do, DON'T go to the conference. Boycotting the conference is the most helpful thing that you can do for the ICO and information rights.