The national executive committee has agreed to proceed to ballot members on a campaign of national industrial action, with the aim of securing an agreement that would protect members’ entitlements under the civil service compensation scheme (CSCS) and provide for acceptable protection for members in the nuvos pension scheme not covered by the CSCS. The ballot will run from February 4 to February 25.
The government’s proposed changes to the CSCS threaten to tear up members’ accrued contractual rights and drastically cut compensation payments in the event of redundancy, whether compulsory or voluntary. They would make job cuts cheaper at a time when we know that all the main political parties are planning huge public spending cuts. All members would be at greater risk of redundancy.
Meetings have taken place with government Ministers to make clear our objections and seek new proposals. We have worked hard in an attempt to secure an acceptable settlement. But, so far, the employer has refused to come to an agreement with us.
Membership support for action
The reaction of members to the government’s proposals was tested in a series of workplace meetings held in September and October. Over 35,000 members came to 1000 meetings making it the largest such exercise the union has carried out. The overwhelming majority made it very clear that they supported the union’s objectives to protect members’ existing entitlements. More than 80% said that industrial action should be considered if negotiations do not produce the result we need.
The views of members were also made clear in the responses to the government’s consultation. 18,000 comments were sent to the Cabinet Office, the overwhelming majority of which clearly opposed the proposed cuts to the scheme. This was a marvellous response which communicated effectively the depth of feeling on the issue to the employer.
The NEC has agreed to instigate a judicial review to halt the process by which the government seems intent of removing members’ accrued rights under the CSCS.
Feedback from the membership meetings has highlighted the necessity for action to be at a level that will exert sufficient pressure on the employer to bring about an agreement to withdraw the order in Parliament that will have been laid to amend the scheme, which is planned to take effect from 1 April. March will be the key period to build pressure.
The NEC has therefore agreed that members are balloted on a programme of discontinuous industrial action, aimed at maximising disruption to the employer, to include a combination of national strike action, rolling action (i.e. across different departments, or other employers, over different days) and targeted action (i.e. specific areas which are particularly effective at causing disruption). It will be emphasised to members that our intention would be to call effective action at the same time as minimising the financial loss to members as far as possible.
The nature of the action will be subject to consultation with the national campaigns liaison group which meets on Friday 15 January. The NEC will then meet to consider the ballot result and to agree the precise form of action to be notified to the employer.
Lobbying of MPs
115 MPs have signed up to an early day motion on the CSCS. Over 100 signatures for an EDM on an industrial issue is a tremendous level of support. This reflects effective lobbying by many members in constituencies, and MPs’ increased receptiveness to that in the run-up to a General Election.
Previously the government has announced that it has come to its ‘final decision’ on the matter. Nevertheless, the Cabinet Office has now agreed to meet the unions to discuss the proposals. The unions have agreed to further discussions in order to make one last effort at finding a way forward without the need for industrial and legal action. At the time of writing, however, there was no indication that progress at the meeting towards addressing our substantive concerns is imminent. It is vital that we keep up the pressure and the NEC has agreed to proceed with the ballot.
Branches should now:
- Plan a programme of workplace meetings and other contact with members to build support for a ‘yes’ vote.
- Continue to urge members to lobby their MPs.
Campaign materials and more information will be made available as soon as possible.
Mark Serwotka Janice Godrich
General Secretary President