The civil service’s largest union does not expect ministers to be in a position to revise the current redundancy payout rules for at least two months, following its latest talks with the Cabinet Office.
PCS last year succeeded in getting 2016's revisions to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme declared illegal after High Court judges agreed the union had been excluded from part of the consultation process. The move has forced departments to revert to the more generous 2010 version of the CSCS, and boost payouts made to thousands of former staff.
Rather than challenge the High Court decision, the Cabinet Office quickly floated a new version of the compensation scheme that proposed capping voluntary redundancy payouts at 15 months’ salary, rather than 18 months in 2016 agreement and 21 months in 2010 scheme. Compulsory redundancy payouts would be capped at nine months’ salary, the same level as the 2016 scheme, rather than 2010’s entitlement of 12 months.
In an update on its work in relation to the latest government proposals, PCS said the Cabinet Office had given it and fellow Whitehall unions the Prison Officers’ Association, Unite and GMB, until April 23 to come up with alternative proposals to the government’s draft revisions.
The four are in separate Cabinet Office talks to those being conducted with the FDA and Prospect, which co-operated with ministers on the 2016 scheme, and had demanded a comprehensive range of data from the government. They have sought – and received – a commitment that implementation minister Oliver Dowden will consider alternative CSCS proposals that “do not meet the government’s aspiration of saving around a third off the costs of the 2010 scheme".
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said thousands of civil servants made redundant in the eight months between November 2016 and July last year had received extra compensation because of the union’s actions – some pocketing up to £50,000.
He said that ministers would have to stick with the reverted-to 2010 version of the CSCS until May at the earliest.
“Anyone worried that the government is about to change their compensation terms now because they are considering departing, I am pleased to confirm that there can be no change in those 2010 terms for at least for a couple more months while the negotiations are in place,” he said.
“So I’m sure everyone will welcome that as a really stunning achievement.”
PCS also published a communication from the Cabinet Office’s CSCS negotiation team that said seven consultation meetings had taken place between Whitehall employers and PCS, the POA, Unite and the GMB in the months since the revised proposals were published.
“We recognise the position that the four unions have made clear during the meetings, and in your written response to the consultation, that you do not accept the rationale for change and do not accept the specific proposals set out in the consultation document, but that you are nevertheless committed to seeking to reach agreement on a set of reforms,” it said.
“We believe that the detailed discussions over recent months, [February’s] discussion with the minister and the very considerable amount of data we have provided are sufficient for the four unions to put forward any alternative proposals you wish to make for consideration by the minister.”
The letter acknowledged that the unions might want to consult members on any government offer – whether based on the consultation or their own proposals, but urged them to make plans for such a move “in good time”.
Although the scrapped 2016 CSCS terms were widely seen as less favourable than those in the predecessor scheme, PCS revealed earlier this year that they had been beneficial to “a small number” of departing civil servants – however it said it had succeeded in stopping departments from seeking repayments from them.