PCS members at the Department of Education start work-to-rule

Tim Lezard

GoveCivil servants in the Department for Education today begin industrial action over plans for 50% cuts.

The cuts – announced last autumn as a result of a “review” assisted by management consultancy Bain and Company – threaten the jobs of a quarter of the workforce and would close half of the DfE’s 12 UK offices.

Despite going even further than the cuts required by chancellor George Osborne, DfE senior management has refused to say what important public services will be affected. The union fears that child protection will suffer as the department prioritises free schools and academies.

PCS announced last week that its lawyers had written to the DfE permanent secretary to warn that it faces hundreds of unfair dismissal claims if it presses ahead with its claim that it is not in a “redundancy situation”, despite looking to axe 1,000 jobs.

The letter states: “We must confess to being totally mystified by that denial. A reduction in costs of 50%, a potential reduction in staff of 25% and the closure of six offices clearly gives rise to a potential redundancy situation. The department’s assertion to the contrary is, with respect, completely unsustainable.”

From today, the union’s members in the DfE will begin an ongoing programme of industrial action short of a strike, including working to rule and non-compliance with a new performance management system that the department admits will be used to “speedily manage out” those it deems to be low performers. Further action, including walkouts, is being considered.

The action comes as the union awaits the results on Monday of a national industrial action ballot of 250,000 of its members across the civil and public services over cuts to pay, pensions and terms and conditions.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Staff who work in education do so because they are dedicated to providing important public services, not so they can be used as pawns in a political experiment by education secretary Michael Gove and his advisers.

“News that Mr Gove is being recalled by the education select committee to face questions that he misled parliament is a welcome sign that his political project is coming under increasing scrutiny.”

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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