PCS has written officially to the Cabinet Office, describing the proposals as ‘a fundamental rupture in industrial relations’

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Coalition ministers and senior officials have excluded trade unions from details of far-reaching proposals to cut back working conditions for hundreds of thousands of civil servants.

It comes as officials have ordered a review of everything from working hours and leave, to flexitime and childcare arrangements.

Senior PCS officials believe the plans are closely linked to wider attacks on facility time for union reps and what they say are politically-driven budget cuts.

UnionNews has seen a letter sent to HR managers in late September instructing them to produce ‘initial assessments’ before the end of next week (October 19th) of which terms and conditions they propose to change for staff and how they plan to implement any reforms.

Individual departments could start to force through the changes from January 2013.

The letter, signed by the HR director of the civil service, William Hague, says: ‘One feature [of the review] should be to promote greater mobility of staff’ and that the civil service should be ‘offering terms and conditions comparable with, but not beyond, what a good, modern employer would provide.’

The letter has emerged after the government on Monday announced its intention to impose cuts on ‘facility time’ for union reps.

A senior PCS official told UnionNews: “This is going to be a massive issue for all civil servants.

“After the pay freeze, pensions and redundancy payments being cut, they’re now coming for everything else.”

Sources say the unions had been in talks with the Cabinet Office on facility time but three recent meetings were cancelled without explanation – unions believe it was done at the request of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

Officials were only told ‘at the eleventh hour’ that an announcement on facility time was imminent.

Union activists in the civil service say they are being ‘hammered’ by a ‘massive’ increase in disciplinary action against elected reps in recent months, particularly if they are found to be speaking in public against government policy.

They fear the proposals are part of plans for a further round of privatisation of civil service jobs, such as the outsourcing of online work to administer the Jobseekers Allowance to Capita.

The PCS has written officially to the Cabinet Office, describing the proposals as ‘a fundamental rupture in industrial relations.’

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Amid an imposed pay freeze, and cuts to pensions and redundancy terms, the Cabinet Office now wants to undermine some very basic working conditions that any decent employer should offer.

“It is impossible to separate this from the Tory-led government’s wider political project to unpick the welfare state and drive down pay, conditions and employment rights across the economy, and we are determined to oppose it at every step.”

The letter – dated 28 September 2012 – sets out a comprehensive list of terms and conditions which could be modified or scrapped, including whistleblowing, performance management, disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as allowances for everything from eye tests, to advances on season tickets for travel to work and relocation costs.

It says changes should be implemented across all departments in stages from April 2013 and applied to all new recruits from ‘1 August 2015 at the latest.’


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