|The Treasury, London|
Civil servants are engaged in a long-running dispute about redundancy payments. Government workers rightly feared that the only reason the last government tried to change the rules was to make it easier to sack them. Despite that threat, the unions have not been able to agree on the best way to respond. Civil servants have hard choices to make about how to respond; this is only one of several difficulties facing them including a pay freeze and reduced pension entitlements.
Earlier this year five civil service unions thought that they had no choice but to reach agreement on a severe worsening to redundancy terms. The Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS), by far the largest union, did not agree and eventually won a court ruling that the government could not force agreement without the consent of all of the Council of Civil Service Unions.
Since May negotiations have dragged on without full PCS participation. The new government has repeated Labour’s tactics to divide the unions and force agreement. Again the unions other than PCS believe they can go no further and will recommend what appear to be improved terms, or rather less bad than offered before.
This is against the threat of worse to come in legislation before Parliament. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude says he will withdraw it if the unions reach agreement, within the cost of the current offer. The smaller unions will ballot members, which some of them failed to do before. The difference now is that there is no doubt that there will be a high number of redundancies.