19 November 2010
We are balloting PCS members on the rejection of the government?s proposed cuts in the civil service compensation scheme. The ballot will start on 7 December and end on 14 January.
Following our industrial action earlier this year, the High Court ruled the previous government had acted unlawfully when it introduced a new scheme – without PCS consultation – which cut members’ accrued rights as required by the 1972 Superannuation Act.
Following the High Court ruling we wrote to the Cabinet Office offering negotiations to agree a fair and legal deal. Since then talks have been taking place between the Council of Civil Service Unions (CCSU) and the Cabinet Office to see if agreement could be reached on a new scheme.
However, the government has introduced legislation in parliament which would change the 1972 Superannuation Act to remove the need to agree detrimental changes with the unions.
The talks with the Cabinet Office have therefore been conducted under the threat of legislation: the government has attempted to use the superannuation bill as a blunt bargaining tool to influence the negotiating process.
The PCS position has been very clear: that we have been always prepared to negotiate to reach agreement, but any agreement should be fair to all parties, recognise the accrued rights held by all civil service staff and be fair to new entrants to the civil service.
The government has issued final proposals, despite PCS and the Prisojn OFficers’ Association writing to the minister for the civil service, Francis Maude MP, making suggestions on an agreement which would be both fair and affordable. Mr Maude had previously told the House of Commons that his government would “strain every sinew” towards achieving a negotiated scheme supported by all six trade unions. He had told PCS and the POA that further proposals from the unions would lead to talks.
Instead, the Cabinet Office has decided to impose terms which four other unions – Prospect, FDA, Unite and GMB, representing a minority of civil servants – have settled for. PCS (by far the largest civil service union) and POA (the second largest) represent more than three times the civil and public servants covered by the CSCS than the other unions combined.
The government’s proposals would cap payments at 12 months for compulsory redundancy and 21 months for voluntary exits. The union believes the government’s plans unfairly discriminate against lower and middle paid staff under the age of 50 and disproportionately favour higher paid staff.
The Treasury has imposed a cost envelope – a total amount of money that would set the parameters of any agreement. The details have not been explained. We believe, however, that the costs have been calculated on the basis of the large numbers of jobs the government plans to cut.
The terms on offer are so significantly detrimental to the overwhelming majority of members – at a time of imminent attacks on our jobs - that the union could not agree to the government’s proposals.
Our national executive has decided we should ballot members on the government’s proposals with a recommendation to reject them. The ballot will start on 7 December and end on 14 January.
The POA will also ballot its members and is considering the same timetable as PCS.
The ballot will also contain a question on support for the union’s national campaign. Members will also be asked if they support the aims of our campaign based on the defence of jobs, pay pensions and public services.
Our campaign for an alternative to the government’s cuts programme is inextricably linked to our work to achieve a fair agreement on the CSCS.
We are continuing to lobby MPs, to campaign widely with other unions against these changes and to press Ministers to reopen talks. We are also taking further legal action to defend members’ rights, under the Human Rights Act. Further industrial action would be considered as a last resort.
Branches are urged to:
• Make plans for members’ meetings and other face to face contact to build a ‘yes’ vote. A flyer for members and a speakers’ briefing will be issued shortly
• Encourage members to write to their MPs asking them to lobby on our behalf against the new CSCS legislation
• Sign up to our e-action and continue to use social networking and the local media to protest at these proposals.
Building a large ‘yes’ vote on rejecting the government’s cuts in the CSCS, and a large ‘yes’ vote for the aims of our national campaign, is vital to strengthening us in the fight to defend jobs, pensions, pay and public services.
Mark Serwotka Janice Godrich