Members of the civil service union PCS have voted decisively to take industrial action over redundancy and early retirement terms. National strikes will take place on Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 March.
The union has focused mainly on the adverse changes proposed to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS). But we mustn’t forget that tens of thousands of staff, members of the inferior Nuvos pension scheme, are only entitled to statutory minimum redundancy payments. This dispute is also about eliminating the two tiers of redundancy terms, and levelling up.
To undermine the strike, senior managers have written to all civil servants, with four examples “showing” that staff will not be that much worse off under the new proposal. But the letter has nothing to say concerning those in the Nuvos scheme; this implies that those staff members are still entitled only to statutory minimum redundancy payments. The two tiers continue!
The examples given are only for compulsory redundancies, whereas the vast bulk of all redundancies in the recent past have been where staff have chosen to leave the service. Clearly the Government wants “volunteers” in the future to leave on much worse terms than they enjoy currently.
To take the 46-year-old on £25,000 with 25 years’ service, the first of the given examples: it leads to a redundancy payment under compulsory terms of £60,000. At the moment, the compulsory payment would be £75,000, possibly more if that person has 1987 reserved rights. Under voluntary terms the maximum would be £50,000 but could be as low as £8,550 (the statutory minimum). We have a great deal to lose!
The letter also claims that as five unions (FDA, Prospect, POA, GMB and Unite) have accepted the changes PCS is the “odd one out”. This is disingenuous. It is PCS members who will be most directly affected by these changes, as well as members of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) who don’t get a mention (they too are in dispute over the changes).
Management claim that the five accepting unions “represent a complete cross-section of our staff, across all grades”. This is a complete fabrication. There is not one Administrative Officer (AO) or Executive Officer (EO) in these unions — grades which make up the majority, well over 70% of staff.
PCS alone (without NIPSA) represents nearly three times as many civil servants as the other unions combined. The other unions didn’t even bother to consult their members on the proposals.
It is claimed that the public will not understand our taking action. To the extent that this is true, it is because the public has been fed a steady diet of information about the financial arrangements, bonus payments, gold-plated pensions and golden parachutes of senior civil servants. The reality for the vast majority of us is very different.
We must all now take action to defend our terms and conditions.
All out on Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 March!