PCS National executive response to comprehensive spending review

27 October 2010

Next steps in the campaign to defend job, pay, pensions and public services, and an update on the civil service compensation scheme.

The union is continuing to build support for our national campaign to defend members’ jobs, pensions, pay and public services from the Coalition Government’s programme of cuts. The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 20 October was an unprecedented attack on the welfare state, public services, communities, jobs and benefits. This briefing updates branches on our response to the CSR following a special meeting of the NEC.

This briefing also updates branches on the negotiations over the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS) and on support in Parliament and from other unions.

Comprehensive Spending Review

The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 20 October was an unprecedented attack on the welfare state, public services, communities, jobs and benefits:

  • The Chancellor, George Osborne, announced cuts to departmental administration budgets averaging 34%. This will mean huge job cuts: 25,000 in the MoD; 15,000 in DWP; 14,000 in MoJ; and 13,000 in HMRC
  • Overall 490,000 public sector jobs will go, but some estimates say this will be nearer 750,000
  • A further £7 billion in welfare cuts was announced on top of the £11 billion in the June Budget
  • An endorsement of Hutton’s interim report on public sector pensions – with £1.8 billion cuts promised – while the state pension age will rise to 66

For members facing imminent threats a meeting was held on 7 October bringing together reps and full-time officers from dozens of organisations that are facing immediate cuts, privatisation or even abolition.

The union is meeting with colleagues from Unison, Unite, and Prospect to discuss how we can work together over cuts to NDPBs, and we will be giving oral evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee hearing in November on the abolition of NDPBs, following the written evidence we submitted.

Groups and branches should engage with management to seek wherever possible information and assurances on jobs and terms and conditions. Branches are also asked to feed through to Group officers further details, as they emerge, of how the cuts will implemented. NDC submissions should be made where members would support action and the objectives of action are clear.

A National Campaign Liaison Group (NCLG) meeting will be held in November to consider the detailed cuts programmes and to coordinate campaign activities.

The NEC will consider feedback from the NCLG at its meeting in early December, including the possibility of national industrial action.

Campaigning action

These cuts are a political choice – aimed at rolling back the state and loading the costs of the crisis onto working people.

Branches are asked to use the campaign materials available to highlight the alternatives to cuts both among members and the wider public, to continue to build local links with other unions and to support actions against the cuts. Our pamphlet – ‘There is an Alternative’ – has been very well received in the movement and beyond.

The union will also work with the TUC, campaigning organisations and our parliamentary group to build a broad-based campaign in defence of welfare.

National demonstrations

The TUC has now confirmed 26 March 2011 as the date for a national demonstration against the Coalition Government’s agenda of cuts and privatisation.

PCS had argued strongly for an earlier national demonstration to coincide with the CSR. Despite that not being agreed, PCS members played an active role in the success of local demonstrations on 23 October across the UK, including in Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, Wrexham, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, York, Cambridge, Norwich and elsewhere.

At its special meeting on 26 October, the NEC agreed, given the speed with which the Government’s cuts will impact and the success of the 23 October marches and protests, that a national demonstration should be held this year in late November or early December, in addition to the demo next March. We will be discussing this with other unions and will propose at the TUC Public Sector Liaison Group meeting on 8 November that the TUC call such a demonstration.

A further branch briefing will follow, once the date is agreed for this earlier demonstration.

Civil Service Compensation Scheme

The union is working to achieve a negotiated settlement that protects the accrued rights of our members.

The 7 October NEC meeting agreed to reject the latest offer from the Cabinet Office and to call for further negotiations. If no further negotiations proved possible, it was agreed to ballot members with a recommendation to reject the offer.

Contrary to the Minister’s claims at the time – that the other five unions had agreed the offer – the POA executive also agreed to reject the offer and ballot its members with a recommendation to reject. The POA also called for further talks with the Cabinet Office to include PCS. Unite and GMB also made it clear that they had not formally agreed the proposals.

Meetings have since been held, and correspondence exchanged, with Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude.

Some progress around the issue was being made at these talks, including of capping individual payments of the higher earners, in order to redistribute to protect the accrued rights of lower and middle earners.

However, the Minister has since written to say that he will proceed on the basis of the terms discussed with four unions representing a small minority of civil servants. Following this we have written to the Minister and discussed the issue with him further.

We hope to have further talks with the Council of Civil Service Unions (CCSU), and PCS has now requested that the CCSU meets to discuss developments. – although further talks may yet take place.

An update will be issued as soon as possible. Guidance for reps and negotiators will also be distributed.

Parliament

On 13 October, the Superannuation Bill had its remaining stages in the House of Commons. Our Group Chair John McDonnell and other MPs dominated the debate, raising our unions’ concerns. However the coalition MPs forced the Bill through by 309 to 242.

However, after conceding that the Bill was not a Money Bill, under threat of PCS legal challenge, the Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords – and may return to the Commons if amended. This affords more time to reach a negotiated settlement if the Cabinet Office is willing to talk.

Over 180 MPs have now signed EDM 301 ‘Civil Service Compensation Scheme’ tabled by John McDonnell. This is huge support for an EDM. Branches should lobby their MPs to sign this EDM, and if they have already done so,to lobby Maude to negotiate a settlement which protects members’ accrued rights.

Conclusion

We are now entering a crucial phase of our campaign following the detailed announcements in the CSR. The negotiations over the CSCS are also reaching an end.

The NEC will be meeting again in early December to assess the current situation, considering the positions of other unions and the possibility of coordinated campaigning and joint industrial action.

Branches are urged to:

  • feed through to Group officers further details, as they emerge, of how the cuts will implemented,
  • continue to organise members’ meetings on the national campaign (see BB 87/10 for details and materials)
  • distribute campaign materials to members, and organise members meetings wherever possible: contact your group and regional offices for support,
  • continue to forge local links with other unions and build support for any local protests and demos – use the joint statement with Unison,
  • continue to use the local media and social networking to campaign against the cuts and promote our alternative,
  • continue to lobby MPs and keep up the pressure over the CSCS
  • recruit your colleagues to the union – there’s never been a more important time to join PCS.

Mark Serwotka      Janice Godrich
General Secretary  President



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