Civil Service redundancy changes challenged

The Government is to face a legal challenge over changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme after a huge rejection by members of the biggest Whitehall trade union, it was announced today.

The Public and Commercial Services union said 90% of its members refused to back the new scheme, covering redundancy terms when civil servants lose their jobs.

More than 80,000 civil servants took part in the vote, a third of those balloted, and the union will now mount a legal challenge in the High Court in London next week.

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."

The union said civil servants stood to lose tens of thousands of pounds under the new scheme, which the Government announced last year.

Other Civil Service unions have accepted the scheme, although the Prison Officers Association has yet to decide whether to fight it.

The PCS overturned changes planned by the Labour government after mounting a successful legal challenge.

The union said it will now press ahead with fresh legal action, calling for a judicial review on human rights grounds, arguing that the Government was breaching a European Convention.

"We call on the Government to reopen negotiations in the light of this ballot decision," said a spokesman.

The PCS said that, under the new scheme, reductions in compensation payouts can be imposed "at will", at a time when cuts in Government spending are expected to lead to job losses in the Civil Service.

Union members voted by a bigger majority - 96% - to support the PCS national campaign against cuts which involves working with other unions and community groups to co-ordinate campaigns, including possible industrial action.

Mr Serwotka added: "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."