PCS union to continue fighting cuts to civil service redundancy scheme

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has vowed to continue fighting proposed changes to the civil service redundancy scheme despite MPs voting legislation through Parliament last night.

MPs voted the Superannuation Bill – which would cap redundancy pay at one year’s salary or 15 months’ for voluntary redundancies – through at its second reading by 326 votes to 244. An amendment attempting to implement instead the previous Labour administration’s reform proposals was defeated by 320 votes to 240.

The Bill will now formally enter the committee stage process where MPs will scrutinise and debate the proposals before presenting the amended Bill to MPs again in October.

Opening the Parliamentary debate, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude urged civil service unions to agree new redundancy terms and make the Bill “a dead letter” before it becomes law.

But the PCS – which won a High Court challenge against Labour plans to overhaul the redundancy scheme earlier this summer – today stressed its opposition would continue.

“While we lost both the vote on the reasoned amendment and the vote on the second reading of the Bill it is clear that the Government has pulled out all the stops to galvanise MPs to support this Bill,” the union said. “We need to keep up lobbying activities to encourage other MPs to oppose the Bill when it comes back to Parliament in October.”

James Willis, senior associate at Thomson Snell & Passmore, said that any legal challenge would be difficult as the coalition has adopted a different approach to Labour by seeking to introduce new legislation expressly to allow them to cap entitlements under the scheme.

“If the legislation were to pass into law, it could prove very difficult indeed for the PCS or any other union to challenge it,” he told Personnel Today. “But there is still the prospect that this move by the Government is more a way of forcing the unions to the negotiating table, rather than an attempt to impose what would be highly unpopular changes. Time will tell whether both sides are prepared to move enough to avoid further confrontation.”

Maude has warned that a single trade union would not be allowed to stand in the way of reforming the redundancy scheme.

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