MPs to vote on civil service payoffs

MPs will vote today on Government plans to place a cap on Civil Service redundancy pay, which unions claim could leave thousands of low-paid workers out of pocket as they lose their jobs in the coming months.

The Superannuation Bill, which receives its second reading in the House of Commons today, would cap payoffs at one year's salary or 15 months for voluntary redundancies. At present, civil servants can get three years' salary, with those recruited before 1987 entitled to as much as six years.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the Government had a "duty to the taxpayer" to change a system which is far more generous than schemes elsewhere in the public and private sectors.

But the Public and Commercial Services union threatened to challenge the move in court, accusing the Government of trying to tear up workers' contractual rights at a time when they are most vulnerable.

Negotiations on reform to the system under the previous Labour administration were blocked after 18 months when the PCS won a legal challenge in the High Court.

Mr Maude insisted that the proposed change would help protect low-paid workers, by making it affordable for the Government to remove senior executives on high salaries, who would otherwise be too expensive to sack.

Thousands of Civil Service posts are expected to be scrapped in the period after next month's spending review, as Whitehall department budgets are cut by an average 25% as part of the Government's bid to pay down the bulk of Britain's state deficit within five years.

Mr Maude told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We want there to be a proper agreed long-term settlement here, and particularly one that gives proper protection for low-paid workers.

"The real mischief of the way the system works at the moment is that, because it is so incredibly expensive - out of all proportion expensive - for the Government to make redundant very senior people who have been there for a long time, the result is that, when savings have to be made... more lower-paid workers will lose their jobs, because frankly they are the ones who are cheaper to make redundant.

"We want something that gives real protection to lower-paid workers, who actually get discriminated against at the moment."

Mr Maude accepted that the change would not be popular among civil servants: "No-one likes changes that make their own position less satisfactory."

But he said the current system was far more generous than the statutory redundancy payments available to most low-paid people in the private sector, which are no more than 32 weeks' pay capped at £380 a week - the equivalent of around £11,000.

Civil servants' present arrangements were "completely out of kilter with anything in the rest of the public sector, let alone the private sector", said Mr Maude, adding: "We have a duty to the taxpayer."

But PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said his union would challenge the Bill in court.

He said only a "handful" of civil servants enjoyed the full pre-1987 redundancy arrangements, and many low-paid workers would lose out under the Government's proposals.

"This is really about low-paid civil servants whose jobs are more vulnerable than at any other time that I can remember being told that the Government is going to slash their contractual terms, even though the High Court has twice found that it is illegal to do so when the previous government tried to do it," Mr Serwotka told Today.

"Yes, this is a package that is more generous than others, but historically the reason for that is that Civil Service pay for comparable jobs is lower than other parts of the public sector or the private sector.

"It is an outrage that the Government is abusing its position as an employer of civil servants. What it should do is sit down and negotiate with trade unions on a new scheme that is compatible with age discrimination legislation, but one that recognises that twice in the High Court a judge has said that you can't remove people's accrued rights without the agreement of the union."

Negotiations which were currently under way over redundancy pay were not "genuine" because the Government was "holding a gun to unions' heads" by rushing the legislation through Parliament in order to impose the less generous terms within months, said Mr Serwotka.

Labour's Tessa Jowell said: "We all believe that the Civil Service Compensation Scheme needs to be reformed and that its costs need to be reduced. But reform needs to be fair.

"The Superannuation Bill fails to meet this test. It provides inadequate protection for some of the lowest-paid and longest-serving public sector workers.

"In putting it forward, the Government have acted unilaterally without consulting their employees, seeking to circumvent proper parliamentary scrutiny.

"No protection is offered for the lowest-paid, with a junior official in a job centre receiving no more assistance than a permanent secretary of a Government department.

"We believe that the principles of the February 2010 scheme, introduced by the previous Government, provided a basis for a fair way forward. This would make a substantial contribution towards tackling the deficit, while ensuring that the reasonable expectations of Civil Service staff, particularly the lowest-paid, are met."

Labour's Tessa Jowell said: "We all believe that the Civil Service Compensation Scheme needs to be reformed and that its costs need to be reduced. But reform needs to be fair.

"The Superannuation Bill fails to meet this test. It provides inadequate protection for some of the lowest-paid and longest-serving public sector workers.

"In putting it forward, the Government have acted unilaterally without consulting their employees, seeking to circumvent proper parliamentary scrutiny.

"No protection is offered for the lowest-paid, with a junior official in a job centre receiving no more assistance than a permanent secretary of a Government department.

"We believe that the principles of the February 2010 scheme, introduced by the previous Government, provided a basis for a fair way forward. This would make a substantial contribution towards tackling the deficit, while ensuring that the reasonable expectations of Civil Service staff, particularly the lowest-paid, are met."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most