Members of the Prospect union have voted to accept the government's final offer on cuts to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, as the Cabinet Office's deadline for a deal on the redundancy package expired.
After months of talks with unions, the Cabinet Office outlined a series of changes to the CSCS in September, including cuts to all three forms of redundancy pay and a reduction in the tariff used to calculate them.
Key civil service unions have been split in their response, with FDA and Prospect taking part in discussions over the summer with the Cabinet Office in a bid to secure concessions. The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union was excluded from talks, however, after declining to agree to the Cabinet Office's pre-conditions.
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With the Cabinet Office's deadline for responding to its offer passing on Monday, Prospect members have now "voted by a large majority" in favour of the final offer, the union's deputy general secretary Garry Graham has told CSW.
Prospect – which represents specialists in the civil service including engineers and scientists – said 83.99% of members who took part in the ballot had voted to accept the deal, with 16% opposed. A Prospect spokesperson declined to provide details on turnout.
Responding to the ballot, Graham told CSW the government should "take no solace from the result" and said members remained "deeply angry" about the changes to the scheme, which come just six years after a previous deal with the Cabinet Office.
"Had we refused to be at the table negotiating hard, it would have been an abdication of responsibility" – Prospect's Garry Graham
However, the union's deputy chief defended the decision to continue talks with the Cabinet Office over the summer, which resulted in the government rowing back on several proposals floated in its initial consultation and will see smaller reductions in redundancy entitlement than those set out in Treasury guidance for the wider public sector.
“Having been in touch with thousands of members over the last month, it is clear that they value the dogged determination of Prospect in seeking to negotiate the best terms possible and then give members the final say," Graham said.
"Had we refused to be at the table negotiating hard, it would have been an abdication of responsibility and would have provided the minister with the green light and excuse to impose far more detrimental terms prior to the summer recess."
He added: “It is the job of professional trade unions to confront the world as it is – not simply as we would wish it to be. We had a choice – we could wring our hands on the sidelines or roll up our sleeves and negotiate hard. We chose to do the latter.”
PCS blasts "extortionist approach"
The result of the ballot of members at the FDA union, which represents senior officials and has also urged members to back the deal, is expected to be announced imminently.
Although the Cabinet Office's deadline for accepting or rejecting the deal has passed, PCS – the largest of the civil service unions and representing rank-and-file officials – has yet to consult its members.
Its ballot is due to run from November 7 to November 28, and the union is arguing that, as the largest civil service union, it should be given more to time to gather the views of its members on the changes.
In a statement, it accused the Cabinet Office – which has said it will impose its original terms if unions fail to agree to the offer – of taking an "extortionist approach to industrial relations".
A PCS spokesperson told CSW: "Our view is that as by far the biggest union we have a right to have a ballot on something so important as this, and the Cabinet Office should respect our members and respect the fact this process takes some time, so should wait for the result of that – particularly given how we asked for none of this, the whole thing has been imposed on us, and we were effectively shut out of the talks."
"For them to recommend accepting cuts to their members is one thing, but inflicting it on our members is completely unacceptable" – PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has also hit out at fellow unions for their response to the latest Compensation Scheme changes, writing on his PCS blog that the government had "talked exclusively to some small unions who represent a tiny minority of the staff affected".
He added: "Perhaps it is not surprising that the same unions are now recommending their members accept the government’s cuts. For them to recommend accepting cuts to their members is one thing, but inflicting it on our members is completely unacceptable."
The FDA and Prospect chose not to respond Serwotka's remarks when approached by CSW.
CSW understands that Serwotka last week wrote to Simon Claydon, director for civil service workforce strategy and inclusion at the Cabinet Office, again urging the government to extend its deadline – a demand the government has so far rejected.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson declined to comment on whether the timing of the PCS ballot would affect the government's timetable for introducing the changes. The Cabinet Office has said it intends to put its amended scheme before parliament in early November, with the new terms coming into effect shortly after that.