Members of Whitehall's biggest union, the PCS, have voted against changes to civil service redundancy pay introduced by ministers earlier this month.
Legislation making a series of cuts to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme was laid before parliament in early November, after a summer of talks which lay bare the splits between the civil service's main unions. Prospect and the FDA urged their members to back a final offer made by the government in September in order to avert a more stringent series of cuts to the scheme.
But the PCS, which was barred from talks with the Cabinet Office after refusing to accept the department's preconditions for negotiation, has hit out at the government's handling of the process and said it was not given enough time to ballot its members before the changes were imposed.
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While the new scheme has already come into force, PCS revealed on Tuesday that a consultative ballot of its members had resulted in an overwhelming rejection of the Compensation Scheme reform, which sees cuts to the value of all three forms of exit payout for departing officials.
According to the union, 96.5% of valid votes (50,352) opposed the scheme, with just 3.5% (1,846 votes) in favour of the deal. There were 340 invalid votes, PCS said, and turnout was 32.7%.
The vote against was welcomed by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, and the union has said it is continuing to explore a "possible legal challenge" to the changes.
"This is a resounding rejection not only of the cuts this Tory government is trying to impose so soon after saying the terms were affordable and sustainable, but also of the underhand way ministers and senior officials have behaved," the union chief said. "These cuts are totally unnecessary and unfair, and we will continue to oppose them."
Meanwhile, Labour MP Chris Stephens – who chairs the PCS parliamentary group – has secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Friday to discuss the Compensation Scheme shake-up, with more than 100 MPs putting their name to an Early Day Motion speaking out against the reform.
PCS said its national executive committee would meet next week to discuss the ballot result and "next steps".