PCS and Unite take first action on equalities body

6 June 2011 PCS, the largest civil service union and Unite, the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland, are taking their first joint action today to save the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

More than 350 PCS and Unite members who work at the EHRC will be walking out of their offices in Manchester, London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow between 11.30am-12.30pm today (Monday, 6 June). The two unions signed a joint agreement to work together two weeks ago.

The commission wants to more than halve its staff from 460 to 200 within 12 months while retaining many consultants and short term contractors who collectively cost over £6 million a year. The decision is being made to retain these hugely expensive non permanent staff and consultants who specialise in, for example, media relations and PR, while cutting those on the lowest wages who provide direct advice and assistance to members of the public. The commission faces a cut of 68% to its budget compared with that in 2007, when it was first formed.

The government has already announced it is ending the commission’s grant giving function which helps charities, disability groups and community organisations, and it is withdrawing funding for the EHRC’s helpline and a tendering exercise starts in July. The helpline, which received most contacts from disabled people seeking assistance, will not be a continuation of the current service as the government has said it will be a non legal information service, therefore losing its teeth. In addition, regional offices are to be shut and local expertise therefore lost. There has been no attempt by the EHRC to settle and the unions are seeking a meeting with the board. PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka said: “A meeting is urgently needed. We are on the edge of losing our only independent equality and human rights body at the time it is most needed. The commission is in effect being dissolved, not dismantled. We cannot put it back together once the expertise is lost, budget axed and remit cut.” Find out more at www.pcs.org.uk/ehrc

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