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Over a quarter of a million civil servants on strike

Up to 270,000 civil servants are starting a two-day strike today over concerns about cuts in redundancy pay. This will include workers in courts, job centres, passport offices, tax centres and emergency police call centres. The strike has been called by The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

This is the biggest strike by civil servants for over twenty years and has come about in response to the government signaling the fact that it will have to make cuts in civil service jobs. Starting in April the government is planning to save around £500m by capping the amount that is given to members of staff who are either laid-off or are taking voluntary redundancy at a level of £60,000.

Redundancy compensation is usually based on the number of years worked in that employment and the PCS argues that an employee with 20 years service and earning £24,000 per year could lose £20,000 as a result of these changes. However, according to Tessa Jowell, who is the Cabinet Office minister, “Those earning £30,000 or less – 80% of the staff – will still get up to between two and three years’ salary, while civil servants earning over £30,000 will have redundancy pay capped at two times salary.

The government also points out that five of the six civil service unions whose members have been affected, have already agreed to the changes after 18 months of negotiation.

But, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “Loyal civil and public servants won’t stand by and allow the government to cut jobs on the cheap. Those on strike today deliver services that touch our everyday lives from the cradle to the grave. Under these imposed changes, they face losing up to a third of their entitlements and tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of their job. The government is tearing up the contracts of low paid civil and public servants whilst it claims it can do nothing about bankers’ bonuses because of contractual obligations. The government need to recognise that slashing entitlements and cutting jobs on the cheap will damage public services and reach an agreement that protects existing members’ entitlements.”

With the axe about to swing in the public sector, resulting in many job losses, we can probably expect a Spring and Summer of discontent with more days being lost to strike action.

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Posted in government spending, labour markets, Strikes, unemployment

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