Controversial cuts to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme which reduce redundancy pay and early access to pensions could be challenged in the High Court, it has emerged.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which is the civil service's biggest trade union, said it had lodged papers seeking a judicial review of the Cabinet Office’s procedural behaviour in revising the scheme’s terms and conditions last year.
If it is granted leave to challenge the basis on which the changes were introduced, a High Court judge could rule that the government acted unlawfully and order the suspension of the new regime.
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In a bid to avoid more stringent terms being imposed, unions Prospect and the FDA took part in negotiations led by the Cabinet Office ahead of the final terms being published.
PCS, Unite and the Prison Officers’ Association refused to take part in the talks because of preconditions imposed by the Cabinet Office – which included an acceptance that further cuts to the scheme were necessary.
A consultative ballot of PCS members saw 96.5% vote to reject the Cabinet Office’s changes on a 32.7% turnout. Prospect and FDA members voted in favour of accepting the revised compensation scheme details, which came into effect in November.
PCS argued this week that it had effectively been excluded from negotiations on the Compensation Scheme changes and its legal advice was that “ministers may have acted unlawfully” by cutting the CSCS terms without proper consultation.
“As with all court cases the outcome is far from certain, but the strength of feeling expressed in our ballot result was unambiguous and we believe we have a responsibility to pursue all avenues to challenge the changes,” a spokesman said.
“We have lodged papers with the High Court and we are now awaiting a hearing.”
PCS said it was mounting the Judicial Review bid in conjunction with the Prison Officers' Association.
Typically, Judicial Reviews involve a two-stage process in which an initial hearing assesses the basis of a case before it proceeds to full-blown examination.