Slashing 91,000 jobs could spark a strike, warns civil service union

LONDON (Parliament politics Magazine) – Boris Johnson’s “P&O-style” strategy to slashing 91,000 Whitehall jobs could be met by a strike, warns the biggest civil service union, with officials also trying to decrease staff redundancy terms by up to a third.

After Johnson urged his cabinet to spend the next month exploring ways to shrink the civil service down to pre-Brexit levels within three years, the plan to cut one in every five civil service jobs provoked fear and concern across government departments. He asserted that reducing the size of the federal government was vital to handle the cost of living issue.

Johnson’s confrontational approach, which was revealed to the Daily Mail, comes on top of existing civil service dissatisfaction with pay rises that are less than half of the current 7% inflation rate, the Cabinet Office’s effort to bring them back into the office, and overwork from Covid backlogs. Simultaneously, authorities have informed trade unions that they are attempting to revive previously failed plans to reduce civil service redundancy payouts by up to 33%.

Steve Barclay, Cabinet Office minister and No 10 chief of staff, announced that all senior civil service vacancies would have to be advertised externally as well as internally in the future.

The general secretary, Mark Serwotka, of the PCS, which represents roughly 180,000 public sector workers, has warned that the civil service has reached a “tipping point” when nationwide strike action is possible.

They had their conference in ten days, and he was confident as he could be that they would go to a nationwide strike ballot, probably in September, he stated. It had started because they were giving them a 2% pay raise on average while robbing them of their pensions.  However, that leak added to the problem. They  believed the tipping point had come. They had held a consultative ballot with a 45 percent turnout, and 98 percent voted for a 10% wage raise, with 82 percent saying they would strike to get it, he added.

He claimed that the civil service actually required thousands more resources at a time when employees were dealing with backlogs of passports, driver’s license, court cases, and pension payments, which were “driven by chronic understaffing, and a recruitment crisis”.

They had all been angry over P&O six weeks ago, and now half a million civil workers had woken up to the media saying one in five jobs must go, he added, alluding to P&O Ferries’ recent firing of 800 crew members.

The general secretary, Dave Penman, of the FDA, which represents 19,000 senior civil officials, described it as a “sort of P&O: civil servants finding out about one in five jobs having to go through the Daily Mail,” adding that the civil service was exasperated with all of this.

He claimed that this wave of job cuts was even less well-thought-out than earlier rounds of job losses during the austerity years, with the 91,000 figure “pulled out of thin air.”

In 2016, the civil service had been at its lowest position since World War II, decimated by austerity, and yet what they had done was added all that work to the civil service since in relation to Covid and Brexit, he continued.

That was an absolute bombshell for the civil service, and it was not apparent where the axe would fall, Kevin Brandstatter, a national officer at the GMB, which represents a substantial number of Ministry of Justice employees, said. However, if GMB members in the Ministry of Justice are affected, it will have a huge impact on legal help and people’s right to proper representation in the court of law.