Govt crushes civil servants’ redundancy revolt

By staff

A union challenge to reform of civil servants’ redundancy packages will be blocked through legislation, as ministers quickly abandoned hope of resolving the dispute through negotiation.

Yesterday Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union general secretary Mark Serwotka warned industrial action was a near certainty in the face of proposals which would bring civil service redundancy payments into line with the private sector.

The prime minister’s spokesperson told reporters yesterday there were no plans to introduce emergency legislation “at the present time”. Just 24 hours later Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the government would do so “with reluctance”.

The bill to be introduced to parliament will cap all compulsory redundancy payments at 12 months’ salary, rather than the six-year payments currently allowed in some cases.

It will also limit payments for voluntary exits to 15 months’ salary but accrued pension rights will not be affected, the Cabinet Office said.

“What is on offer now is simply untenable and completely out of kilter with what is on offer in the wider public sector and the private sector,” Mr Maude said, referring to the PCS’ demands.

“Our ambition now is that a negotiated, sustainable and practical long-term successor to the existing scheme can be agreed – one that is flexible and appropriate for current economic climate and also fair for lower-paid workers.”

Negotiating with the unions with the prospect of impending legislation on the issue transforms the nature of the talks, which Mr Maude said he was looking forward to continuing.

The clash is awkwardly timed for the minister, who is addressing civil servants later today on his plans for civil service reform.

“Our system of a permanent politically impartial civil service is one of the jewels in our constitution and it is rightly admired throughout the world for the way it serves the elected government of the day,” he added.

“I am a huge admirer of its professionalism, and strongly support the values and ethos that underpin it. Sadly the huge deficit we inherited means there is a real urgency now for change.”