UK Civil servants fed up

Up to 270,000 civil servants are
striking over plans to cap redundancy pay, in what is the biggest unrest by the
sector in more than two decades.

Courts, ports, job and tax centres
and emergency police call centres are being affected by the 48-hour walkout by
the Public and Commercial Services Union.

It says members could lose a third
of their entitlement over cuts under the civil service compensation scheme.

The government said other civil
service unions agreed the changes were fair.

Cabinet Office minister Tessa
Jowell said most civil servants were working normally – including a majority of
PCS members.

Under the new system – which takes
effect in April and will save about $753 million – those laid off and taking
voluntary redundancy will have their pay-offs capped at $ 90,000.

Redundancy is currently calculated
on length of service, with a month’s pay for every year worked.

The PCS, Britain’s fifth biggest
union, said an employee with 20 years’ service earning $36,000 a year could
lose $30,000 as a result of new caps.

But the government said those
earning $45,000 or less – 80 per cent of all staff – would still get up to
between two and three years’ salary.

The walkout, which includes 30,000
union members in Scotland, is the biggest show of industrial unrest in the
civil service since 1987.

In Scotland, 200 of the Scottish
Parliament’s 500 staff took part in the action. Civil servants at job centres
also joined in, but PCS leaders admitted they were disappointed with the general

They claimed their members were on
such low wages, many simply could not afford to strike.

Bernard Harkins, the PCS union’s
national branch secretary, said members have been asked to refuse to work
overtime all week and added there could be another strike next week.