Re-open Civil Service Compensation Scheme talks now, says PCS union

Union urges Cabinet Office to think again after members reject reforms to civil service redundancy terms

By Matt Foster

14 Dec 2016

The Public and Commercial Services union has urged the Cabinet Office to reopen talks on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme after its members voted against a deal on the latest redundancy shake-up.

A revised CSCS came into force last month, introducing fresh cuts to all three forms of exit pay-out for civil servants, while rowing back from some of the more stringent reforms floated by the government earlier in the year.

The move came after members of eight trade unions including the Prospect and the FDA voted in favour of accepting a deal with the Cabinet Office, which had said it would impose its original terms if unions did not back the compromise agreement.

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But PCS, the largest of the civil service unions, has repeatedly criticised the government's handling of the talks, refusing to sign up to its preconditions for talks over the summer and arguing that the deadline for consulting members imposed by the Cabinet Office did not give the union sufficient time to run a ballot before the changes came into force.

A PCS ballot carried out last month, after the deal had been laid in parliament, saw 96.5% of valid votes (50,352) cast in opposition to the scheme, with just 3.5% (1,846 votes)  cast in favour of the deal. Turnout was 32.7%, the union said.

"Our membership totals significantly more than all of the unions who have signed up to your terms put together" – PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka

PCS has now written to Simon Claydon, director of civil service workforce strategy at the Cabinet Office, taking issue with the government's claim that a sufficient number of unions had lent their support to the deal.

"I must remind you that PCS is by far the largest union with members affected by the proposals," general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote in the letter seen by CSW.

"Our membership totals significantly more than all of the unions who have signed up to your terms put together. It can only be detrimental to good industrial relations in the civil service that that you should ignore the views of the union representing the overwhelming majority of the workforce."

Serwotka said the "overwhelming rejection" of the new scheme by PCS had prompted the union's executive committee to request the re-opening of negotiations on the CSCS.

Asked to respond to PCS's letter, the Cabinet Office highlighted an earlier statement by minister Ben Gummer which said the government had reached "a strong negotiated settlement reached with trade unions that have engaged constructively in discussions".

Gummer said the Cabinet Office wanted to "work with trade unions on the aspirations we all have to make the civil service an even better place to work”.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson meanwhile added: “We have been in discussions about the details of reforming the compensation scheme since February and have made every effort to engage with unions at every step. We are keen to deliver these reforms in a timely manner to help resolve any uncertainty that staff might face.”

Speaking in the Commons earlier this month, minister Michael Ellis claimed that the PCS had given "no indication that more time would be required" when the offer was first made to unions in September.

"Indeed, the issue was not raised at all until more than half the time intended for union consideration had elapsed, and even then a formal request for an extension to the deadline was not received by the government until some time after that," he said. 

"By that point, the government did not consider any extension to the deadline to be either practical or fair on the other unions, which had made strenuous efforts to respond in time."

PCS has already raised the prospect of taking legal action against the Cabinet Office over the government's handling of the Compensation Scheme changes, which mark the second set of reforms to the CSCS in six years.


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