By Claire West
Plans by the Public and Commercial Services union to legally challenge the government's cuts to civil service redundancy pay received a boost on Friday when the union's members voted overwhelmingly to reject the changes.
Of more than 80,000 people who voted in a consultative ballot, 90% agreed with the union's recommendation that the new civil service compensation scheme, which governs redundancy terms, should be rejected.
The union had previously informed the Treasury Solicitor of its intention to take a judicial review of the government's decision to lay a new scheme in parliament, and it will launch proceedings next week. It has also called on the government to reopen negotiations to agree a new scheme that protects members' rights.
PCS successfully overturned the previous government's imposed cuts to the compensation scheme after proving in the High Court that it was unlawful to reduce rights that had accrued through length of service without the union's agreement.
The new scheme removes the need for ministers to agree this or any future cut with its staff, meaning it can impose reductions at will. This, the union says, is a gross abuse of the government's unique power as both employer and legislator.
The union's case is that the cuts breach the European Convention on Human Rights. In November parliament's human rights joint committee reported that the government had failed to make the necessary case for overriding civil servants' rights.]
In the same ballot, members also backed by 96% the union's national campaign against cuts to jobs, pay, pensions and public services. PCS is working with other unions and community groups to co-ordinate campaigns, including possible industrial action and preparing for the TUC demonstration in London on 26 March.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Our members have sent a crystal clear message that they will not tolerate their contracts being ripped up simply to allow the government to slash jobs and public services.
"There is an alternative to the spending cuts which would see us invest in our future and target those wealthy individuals and organisations who go to great lengths to avoid paying tens of billions of pounds in taxes and starve our economy of vital revenue."