PCS lawyers “totally mystified” by DofE claim not to be making redundancies . . . while shedding 1,000 jobs

Tim Lezard

pcs_logoLawyers for PCS are “totally mystified” by the Department for Education’s claim it is not making redundancies while shedding 1,000 jobs.

The DfE’s permanent secretary Chris Wormald has been warned the department will face hundreds of unfair dismissal claims if it presses ahead.

The union says this is the latest example of a department in disarray as it scrambles to go further than any other in cutting jobs and public services.

Under a review completed last year with the help of a private management consultancy the department plans to cut its budget in half, reduce staff by one quarter and close six of its 12 UK offices.

But senior managers deny this means they are in a “redundancy situation” and are refusing to follow agreed procedures.

In a letter to Mr Wormald, solicitor Andrew James from Thompsons writes: “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.”

The letter goes on to explain that the DfE’s plans to run a “selection process” would put it in breach of two separate procedures on redundancies and dismissing underperforming staff, “leaving itself open to hundreds of unfair dismissal claims”.

On Monday PCS members in the DfE voted for the first time for a departmental-wide strike over the cuts.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “To claim you can cut a quarter of your staff without making redundancies really does defy belief. But it is just the latest example of the chaos at the heart of education secretary Michael Gove’s department as he scrambles to strip back the civil service and drive through his political plans for more academies and free schools.”

The DfE has admitted Bain and Company, part of a global management consultancy group, not only worked for free on the review but has also been given a place on a committee of senior civil servants overseeing the restructuring, while still being allowed to bid for any future contracts.

Last month the Commons education select committee criticised Mr Wormald after it was revealed his senior management team played a game using party hats to share their plans for what to cut.

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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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