Government gears up to sack civil servants

Cuts
Author: 
Colin Foster

The Lib/Tory government has broken off talks with the unions about the redundancy pay entitlements of civil service workers.

The government plans to "cap" redundancy payments for those sacked at a maximum of 12 months' pay, and for redundancy-volunteers at 15 months'.

This will make it cheaper for the government to make the vast job cuts - maybe one-third of total staff - which they plan for the civil service.

The Labour government introduced milder plans to reduce severance pay. In May the PCS union won a legal ruling that the change was illegal.

The new government has introduced legislation for far harsher cuts in severance pay, and will make other legal changes to make a new court challenge unworkable.

Until 28 September the government was negotiating with the unions about its legislation. On that day it said it would no longer negotiate with PCS, the biggest civil service union, but would continue talking with five other unions - POA, Prospect, FDA, Unite, and GMB - who organise a minority of the workers covered by the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.

The government has made its plans clear, and there is no chance that the talks will do more than tweak them at the edges.

Sadly, however, the PCS leadership's response is inadequate. Its recommendations to members are all on the level of "write to your MP".

And it makes no mention of the tens of thousands of workers, members of the inferior Nuvos pension scheme introduced under the "two-tier" deal negotiated by the union in 2005, who even before the planned Lib/Tory changes are entitled only to statutory minimum redundancy payments.

Generally the PCS leadership is not even beginning to agitate among the membership towards industrial action, let alone to plan action. Insofar as it indicates an intention for industrial action, it is focused on the issue of public sector pension changes likely to be pushed by the Lib/Tory government.

It can't make sense to try to mobilise workers only, or primarily, around pensions, if a third of them are likely to lose their jobs long before pension age.