The largest civil service union has warned of strike motion over Boris Johnson’s “P&O-style” strategy to chopping 91,000 Whitehall jobs, with ministers additionally looking for to scale back employees redundancy phrases by as much as a 3rd.
The plan to chop one in 5 civil service jobs brought on alarm and dismay throughout authorities departments, after Johnson advised his cupboard to spend the subsequent month discovering methods to chop the civil service again to pre-Brexit ranges inside three years. He claimed it was essential to shrink the scale of central authorities to sort out the price of dwelling disaster.
The combative transfer by Johnson, briefed to the Daily Mail, comes on prime of current civil service anger over pay will increase lower than half of the present 7% fee of inflation, the Cabinet Office drive to get them again into the workplace and overwork from Covid backlogs. At the identical time, ministers have advised commerce unions that also they are attempting to return to beforehand defeated plans to chop redundancy packages within the civil service by as much as 33%.
In an additional shake-up, Steve Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister and No 10 chief of employees, stated all senior civil service jobs would in future need to be marketed externally in addition to internally.
Mark Serwotka, the overall secretary of the PCS, representing about 180,000 public sector staff, warned that the civil service had reached the “tipping point” of nationwide strike motion being lifelike.
“We have our conference in 10 days’ time where I’m as certain as I can be that we will move to a national strike ballot, probably in September,” he stated. “That was originally because they’re giving a 2% pay rise on average and robbing us of pensions. But this leak adds to it. We think the tipping point has now come. We did a consultative ballot at 45% turnout of which 98% voted for a 10% pay rise and 82% said they’d go on strike for it.”
He stated the civil service in actuality wanted hundreds extra in sources at a time when employees had been combating backlogs of passports, driving licences, courtroom circumstances, and pension funds, which is “driven by chronic understaffing, and a recruitment crisis”.
“Six weeks ago we were all outraged about P&O and now half a million civil servants have woken up to the media saying one in five jobs must go,” he added, referring to P&O Ferries’ current sacking of 800 crew.
Dave Penman, the overall secretary of the FDA, which represents 19,000 senior civil servants, stated it had been like a “kind of P&O: civil servants finding out about one in five jobs having to go via the Daily Mail”, including that there was “exasperation with all of this in the civil service”.
He stated this programme of cuts felt even much less thought-through than earlier rounds of job losses through the years of austerity, with the 91,000 quantity “plucked out of thin air”. He added: “In 2016, it was the lowest point of the civil service since the second world war, ravaged by cuts and yet what they’ve done is added all this work to the civil service since in relation to Brexit and Covid.”
Kevin Brandstatter, a nationwide officer on the GMB, which represents giant numbers of Ministry of Justice employees, stated: “This is a complete bombshell for the civil service and it’s not clear yet where the axe will fall. But if the cuts hit GMB members in the Ministry of Justice it will have a massive impact on legal aid and everyone’s right to proper representation in a court of law.
“If the government go down the outsourcing route, the numbers of employed civil servants might fall, but all this will do is fill the wallets of the senior executives and shareholders. Ultimately it will cost the taxpayer more.”
Permanent secretaries wrote to their departments on Friday, with some expressing remorse on the approach the information of cuts had been conveyed. Jim Harra, the everlasting secretary at HM Revenue and Customs, despatched a message to employees saying: “I am sorry that you have learned this from the media rather than from me or civil service leaders.”
Defending the plans, the minister for Brexit alternatives, Jacob Rees-Mogg, stated it was not a return to austerity as a result of 2016 ranges had been “reasonable”. Downing Street additionally didn’t rule out obligatory redundancies, although No 10 stated it was hoped lots of the cuts would come by way of “natural wastage”.
Experts additionally questioned the prime minister’s declare the cuts would assist with the price of dwelling. Richard Murphy, professor of accounting at Sheffield University, stated: “Cutting employment does not cut the cost of living. It just makes the cost of living crisis very much worse for some, and for the rest of us it deprives us of the benefit of their spending – meaning we’re worse off too.”
Johnson’s plan was additionally challenged by Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP and former public accounts committee chair, who stated it was a “telling sign of a government flat out of ideas”.
“While the cost of living crisis rages on, you can put their plans for real reform on a cigarette paper. Our hollowed-out civil service is in dire need of more expertise, not less,” she stated.
Tony Wilson, the director of the Institute for Employment Studies, stated ministers ought to scale back the variety of civil service jobs created to deal with the pandemic, however the scale of the cuts was “fanciful and damaging to the ability of the civil service to develop policy”.
Two-thirds of all Whitehall staff labored within the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, HMRC, the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), he stated.
He added: “If the government wants to deny the Ministry of Defence some of the 50,000 civilians who support the work of the armed forces, cut the number of tax collectors employed by HMRC, reduce the Home Office’s Border Force and hit the courts system with yet more cuts, it should go ahead.
“The cuts would also damage the DWP’s ability to find people made redundant new jobs, including civil servants put out of work by the new plan.”
Jonathan Portes, an economist at King’s College London, stated: “The cheapest and least painful way to reduce numbers is a hiring freeze – but that is also a recipe for inefficiency and poor resource allocation, with too many people in some areas and not enough in others, often meaning higher consultancy bills. Redundancies, on the other hand, cost money and reduce morale.”