270,000 Civil Servants Join 48-Hour Strike

(BBC) – UP TO 270,000 CIVIL SERVANTS have begun a 48-hour strike over redundancy pay, in what is the biggest unrest by the sector in more than two decades.

Courts, ports, job and tax centres and emergency police call centres are being affected by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) walkout.

It says members could lose a third of their entitlement over cuts under the civil service compensation scheme.

The government said other civil service unions agreed the changes were fair.

Under the new system – which takes effect in April and will save about £500m – those laid off and taking voluntary redundancy will have their pay-offs capped at £60,000.

Redundancy is currently calculated on length of service, with a month’s pay for every year worked.

The PCS said an employee with 20 years’ service earning £24,000 could lose £20,000 as a result of new caps.

But the government said those earning £30,000 or less – 80% of all staff – would still get up to between two and three years’ salary.

The PCS union said its striking members include staff at government departments, as well as workers in Parliament, museums and the Royal Courts of Justice.

The walkout is the biggest show of industrial unrest in the civil service since 1987 and more action is planned ahead of the general election.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said the government had ripped up already low-paid workers’ contractual entitlements to redundancy pay, meaning they could be sacked on the cheap.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s very destabilising for our members, some of whom have worked for over 30 years for the public service, to suddenly realise they could lose their job and actually a large amount of money they would have depended on.

“People over the years have accepted that pay isn’t what it should be but they felt their job was secure and their pension was decent.

“Now in the last few years, 100,000 jobs have gone, and many more are likely to go after the election, so people feel very vulnerable.”

Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell said the decision to strike was very disappointing, “especially given that less than one in five of their own members voted in favour of strike action, and that, overall, this figure represents only around 10% of the total civil Service workforce”.

She said: “The changes to the civil service compensation scheme were agreed with five of the six civil service unions after 18 months of negotiation and consultation. These unions all agree with us that the resulting deal is fair for staff and taxpayers.

“During the negotiating process, we responded to union concerns by ensuring additional protection for lower paid staff.

“Those earning £30,000 or less – 80% of all 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.

“This package brings the civil service more into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector.”

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