More than 3,000 security guards are being switched from manual status in the Civil Service, where many of them are represented by the Transport and General Workers' Union and the GMB general union, to salaried conditions in a unified 'Guard Force' where staff are members of unions which are not allied to Labour.
Union leaders believe compromises suggested by the MoD to the Cabinet were rejected last week, largely because of the intervention of Treasury 'hawks'.
While senior officers of the TGWU and the GMB said the decision represented an attack on the freedom of the labour movement, leaders of the white-collar civil service union NUCPS thought the guards were now a legitimate target for recruitment.
Leslie Christie, general secretary of the NUCPS, said that while union representation in the Civil Service should have nothing to do with political affiliation, 'non-industrial civil servants are represented by non-industrial unions'. The appropriate union for the guards was now the NUCPS.
Manual union leaders indicated that in meetings with both senior officials and ministers at the MoD they were told that a compromise was possible which would allow the TGWU and the GMB to continue to represent the guards. One suggestion that the guards become members of 'non-affiliated' sections of the TGWU and the GMB was rejected by the unions. Negotiations broke down recently when union leaders were told that no compromise seemed possible.
The manual unions said yesterday that their members were furious but officials were counselling restraint.