Sorry for the silence over the last week or so. I’ve been busy dealing with all sorts of difficult stuff, the lessons from which will eventually, no doubt, be the subject of future posts.
The evidence, if any were needed, that the government is gearing up for big public spending cuts came with last week’s announcement that, from next year, the redundancy terms for civil servants will be a lot less generous than they have been in the past. Redundancy payments will now be based on one month’s pay for each year of service, capped at two years’ salary.
As you might expect, the civil service unions are kicking up about this, as is my fellow Bloghounder Cherie. However, even after these changes, the Civil Service Compensation Scheme will still be comparable to the most generous redundancy packages in the private sector and a good deal better than most.
The simple fact is that the government will have to have to pay off thousands of civil servants over the next few years and, under the current redundancy scheme, that would be horrendously expensive. The Cabinet Office is preparing the ground now so that the new terms will be in place by the time the next government starts the inevitable programme of cuts.
So what’s will be the next target? Most probably the Protocol for Handling Surplus Staff. This is the other great obstacle to making civil servants redundant. It obliges the employing department to redeploy those whose jobs have been declared redundant, either within the department of elsewhere in the civil service. It also effectively prevents them from recruiting new people unless they can prove that no-one in the redeployment pool would be suitable for the new roles.
This might have been relatively straightforward when redundancies were few and far between but if most government departments will be laying off large numbers of people, the redeployment process will become cumbersome and unworkable. If the government wants to make rapid and large scale redundancies it will be almost impossible to follow the Protocol.
The civil service unions won’t like this either. For them the Protocol is, if anything, even more of a sacred cow than the Compensation Scheme. The PCS web-site contains an implicit threat to resume national industrial action if the Protocol is breached.
The unions are already angry about the cuts in redundancy compensation and they will be furious if the agreements for handling surplus staff are breached too, which they almost certainly will be. No doubt the Tories already have a miner’s-strike-style plan for handling the industrial unrest that their spending cuts will provoke.
Last month, the CIPD’s John Phillpot predicted a “guerilla war” over public sector job cuts. The first shots have not been fired yet but we can hear the guns being loaded.