ALTHOUGH the Government is inviting comment on the White Paper, the true test of reaction will come in October, when the TUC is planning 'a Civil Service week'.
Bill Brett, general secretary of the Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists, one of the largest civil service unions, said yesterday that it was too early to talk about widespread industrial action but it could come when legislation proposed in the paper was put into effect.
The week in October would highlight staff concerns and demonstrate to the Government the depth of anger and low morale within the service.
Elizabeth Symons, general secretary of the First Division Association, the senior civil servants' union, told a press conference that the intended job cuts would only damage relations still further. 'We're extremely concerned about the scale of the cuts proposed by the Government.'
Despite the prediction in the paper that Whitehall will fall below 500,000 within the next four years, from its present 533,350, she accused William Waldegrave, the public services minister, of 'trying to play the cuts down'. After 200,000 job losses in areas such as defence, environment and the Inland Revenue, it was 'perplexing' where the further 50,000 would come from.
Barry Reamsbottom, general secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association, the largest civil service union, said the White Paper showed the Government had a hidden agenda 'to dismantle the Civil Service'. Instead of the Government imposing efficiency tests, said Mr Reamsbottom, 'we will apply an honest test - do they want to preserve the Civil Service? I find it hard to believe they do'.
The respected national service was being broken up, the unions said, by moves to greater delegation and the creation of what the unions termed 'departmental and agency fiefdoms'. The consequences 'will be dire, expensive and irrational'.
Apart from job cuts, the key battleground will be over future pay bargaining. Four national pay agreements struck only two years ago, will be torn up, to be replaced by 150 separate bargaining units - 'a job that used to be done by 40 civil servants operating out of the Treasury', the unions said.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies