PCS union leader blames poor HR service for civil service strikes 

A damaging lack of communication between HR teams across the civil service is a major factor behind this week’s nationwide strikes, according to a senior union figure.

Thousands of civil servants are set to strike on Wednesday (31 January) in a long-running dispute about job cuts, privatisation and pay.

Charles Cochrane, director of policy, research and bargaining support at the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) , told Personnel Today that HR must shoulder much of the blame for employees’ grievances.

“The underlying causes might be government policies, but in many ways this is a dispute around HR in the civil service,” he said. “We are going through a massive reduction in jobs, and we want some proper joined-up HR.”

The government has been driving through a massive programme of reforms since the 2004 spending review.

In July 2004, it set out to make £20bn savings over four years by slashing 80,000 civil service jobs, relocating 20,000 roles from the south east and making many other efficiency gains.

PCS claims that some government departments have been laying off staff while others have been advertising for new recruits.

“If we could reassure staff they can stay in the civil service in another department then that would transform industrial relations in the civil service,” said Cochrane.

He added that Wednesday’s strike – timed to coincide with the deadline for self-assessment tax returns – was unlikely to be called off. “I would be very surprised if there was any development between now and Wednesday that would change anything.”

The Cabinet Office said there was “no need” for strike action. Pat McFadden, Cabinet Office minister, said: “The government values the civil service highly. If PCS members have concerns about job losses or pay, there is an established industrial relations process to discuss these issues.”

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