By Claire West

The government's new scheme for civil service redundancy payments faces a legal challenge from the Public and Commercial Services union.

The union, which successfully defeated in the High Court the previous government's attempts to slash the terms available to civil servants, believes it has a strong case on human rights grounds.

This position received a boost last month when an influential parliamentary committee suggested an interim measure to cap payments could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The human rights joint committee said the government had failed to make the case for imposing cuts to the civil service redundancy scheme, which governs the terms available to civil servants who are made redundant either compulsorily or by agreement.

The union argues that because civil servants have accrued a right to certain redundancy terms through their length of service, this is classed as a "possession" under human rights legislation, and should not be "interfered with" unless there is an over-riding public interest.

The previous government's attempt to impose a new redundancy scheme was struck down by the High Court earlier this year following a successful judicial review taken by the union.
PCS, by far the largest civil service union, is currently consulting its members in a ballot and is recommending a rejection of the government's changes because they fail to protect the lowest paid.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This should be seen in the context of the government's politically-motivated cuts to public spending and represents a shameful and cynical attempt to make it easier and cheaper to sack its own workforce.

"We have always said we are prepared to negotiate to agree a new scheme and we are determined that these unfair cuts will not be imposed on our members. We have successfully defended our members' rights in court and believe we have a very strong case to do so again."