The Government has been accused of jumping the gun after suggesting yesterday that five trade unions had agreed to accept its latest offer on changes to the civil service redundancy scheme.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced that the 18-month long negotiations over redundancy terms had concluded after five of the six civil service unions agreed a deal, which specified that the maximum payout should be 21 months’ salary. The Government had previously offered a cap of 15 months’ pay.
“Throughout this process we have been committed to reaching a negotiated settlement that is affordable and gives protection to lower paid civil servants,” Maude said. “These five unions – Prospect, FDA, Prison Officers’ Association (POA), Unite and GMB – have made great efforts during the talks to reach an agreement about a sustainable scheme, while securing the best deal for their members.
“There is, of course, one name missing from the list of unions, the PCS (Public and Commercial Services union),” Maude added. “I greatly appreciate the efforts of the five other unions whose constructive proposals have allowed us to reach these new terms. I very much regret that the PCS leadership has not been able to sign up to this provisional agreement at this time.”
However, POA general secretary Steve Gillan said he was “absolutely appalled” that Maude has stated that the POA have reached these new terms with four other unions.
“He is misleading Parliament and the general public by his outrageous claims,” Gillan said. “The National Executive Committee of the POA is not due to meet until next Tuesday and it will only then be decided on our approach and response.”
The POA said it is concerned that any ongoing discussions may have been deliberately “sabotaged” by the Cabinet Office.
Unite also made it clear there was no agreement, saying its officials will be telling its 22,000 members that the offer was the best that could be achieved through negotiation, but the terms would be worse than before.
The PCS, which has already won a High Court challenge to Labour Government plans to overhaul the redundancy scheme, said the new offer is still “unacceptable”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We remain committed to reaching an agreement, but we will not be bullied into agreeing massive cuts in redundancy terms simply because the Government wants to lay waste to our members’ jobs and livelihoods more cheaply. PCS is not just one union out of six. We are the overwhelming voice of civil servants, with twice as many members as the other five unions combined.”
The Government intends that the new terms should supersede the current terms following the passing of the interim legislation (Superannuation Bill), which receives its third reading in Parliament on 13 October.