The merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development has put the status of 160 staff in immediate jeopardy while the new department’s policy on fixed-term contracts has negatively affected 500 more, the PCS union has said.
According to the civil service’s largest union, staff in the most pressing situation are former DfID officials who do not meet the “reserved” nationality requirements that were a legal requirement at the FCO on national security grounds.
PCS said it had been told that while the 160 affected staff – who may be European Union or Commonwealth nationals – had been told there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, they were effectively in limbo.
“They have been told that their current posts are only secure for the month of September 2020, but they cannot apply to move jobs or seek promotion as other FCDO staff can do,” the union said.
“FCDO is considering what it can do with these staff, but their future is uncertain. The only assurance given is that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the merger, but there is a concern that non-UK nationals could be forced out as a means of reducing jobs.”
PCS said that because the nationality requirement was covered in UK law, it could not be easily amended.
The union added: “It is not clear whether the government wants to amendment it, or whether it can make exceptions.”
PCS said it was also concerned about a decision last month to cancel the “permanency” process that progressed staff hired on fixed-term contracts to permanent status. It said the move would affect around 500 workers at FCDO, many of whom were young and from BAME backgrounds – a profile it said was at odds with “the usual makeup of the former FCO staff”.
The union said that under the new HR rules, staff on fixed-term contracts were offered the opportunity to apply for 12-month home roles or three-to-four year international roles, with only those reaching four years’ service being considered “permanent”.
PCS said the departmental leaders had so-far refused to conduct an equality impact assessment on the move and that staff currently on fixed-term contracts would be “an easy target” for job cuts at the new department.
A government spokesperson said: “All non-British national ex-DfID staff transferred to Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on day one and there were no compulsory redundancies as a result of the merger. We have been engaging fully with staff and their trade union representatives throughout this process and will continue to do so.”
According to the latest Cabinet Office data, DfID saw its headcount drop by 9.3% from 2,640 in the year to 31 March – a reduction of 190 staff. The FCO’s headcount increased by 4.9% to 6,430 over the same period.