The government has launched a massive attack on workers that every boss in Britain will be watching.
It is targeting hundreds of thousands of civil service workers as it aims to slash the huge public spending deficit by hitting jobs and services, and selling off public assets.
New Labour wants to massively reduce the payments that civil service workers get when they lose their jobs, in preparation for sacking tens of thousands of them.
Cabinet Office bosses last week unilaterally announced that changes would be made from April next year to the terms, which are known as the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.
Redundancy payments will be capped at three years of salary or £50,000. This will particularly hit the lowest paid and part-time workers.
And even that’s not guaranteed as voluntary redundancy terms will remove any contractual right to the sums detailed. They also leave departmental managements the option of paying only the statutory minimum to whoever they choose.
This could help open the way to further privatisation, as it would make it cheaper for private firms to get rid of workers in the future.
“This is a major attack on jobs that prepares the way for further and deeper cuts,” said Paul McGoay, the president of the PCS civil service union in the Identity and Passport Service.
“Lots of government departments have been cynically holding off from making staff cuts until the scheme is changed. Now they will go for jobs.
“This has to be fought with everything at the union’s disposal.”
The plan for the compensation scheme is the government’s latest assault on this key workforce, in its attempt to get ordinary people to pay for the problems caused by its bailing out of the banks.
If the attack on the compensation scheme is successful, whoever is in government after next year’s general election will feel emboldened to attack other groups of public sector workers.
Workers and their trade unions are furious that these attacks are being pushed through.
Simon Brett, a PCS member in Leeds, said, “People are really angry and disgusted about this. They are up for taking action to protect themselves.
“Staff are saying enough is enough, particularly as this comes at a time when failed bankers are demanding their huge bonuses.
“What planet are they on?
“The union organised a series of consultations over the last few months with members over the plans to change the compensation scheme, which 35,000 people attended across the country.
“In Leeds, we had our biggest members’ meeting for a long time. It was obvious to everyone there that things like this will just make our lives worse. Everyone’s aware of the danger of job cuts.
“The PCS has to show it’s committed to taking action as quickly as possible to beat off these attacks.
“The experience of the bin workers’ strike in Leeds, where all-out action won big gains, has meant that people have seen that strikes can win.
“It has made a difference when we talk about what’s possible. Many people now think that fighting back is much better than lying down and taking it.”
Both the PCS and Unite unions have threatened to ballot for strike action unless management and the government come back to the table to discuss the issue.
The PCS national executive was meeting this week to discuss what action it should take.
Activists are pushing for hard-hitting action of more than one day to take place as soon as possible.
Andy Reid, a PCS union executive member, said, “The government is stepping up its preparation for privatisation and job cuts.
“Members sent a clear message at the consultation meetings that they want serious action to defend their rights.”