Terms & Conditions: A common defence is needed

The Government has ordered all departments within the civil service to undertake an urgent review of terms and conditions.

Departments have been told that “This is our opportunity to tackle those terms and conditions where we have been less responsive in the past as well those that have left the Civil Service open to ridicule”.

We know that privilege days will be in the scope of the review; though not the one associated with the Queen’s Birthday (obviously the Tories devotion to Queen outstrips their determination to worsen conditions for public sector workers).

According to the Guardian, who have seen leaked Cabinet Office documents, the review will look at “aspects of working life …. susceptible to radical change, including employees’ annual leave, occasional days’ leave, sick pay, hours of work, the ability of employees to move from one job to another and probationary periods”.

Currently staff in London work 36 hour net and outside London a 37 hour net week. As the leaked documents talk of lengthening the working week then presumably the departments will propose increasing working hours in London or in London and outside it.

Department will begin talks with local union representatives on or after the 16th November on their proposals arising from their reviews. Now most of terms and conditions being reviewed are contractual and in theory cannot be changed without agreement. At the moment there is no hint that the government wants to “bust” the contracts. So the danger in that case is that if terms for existing staff cannot be changed then new entrants to departments will be put on worse terms and so we will have a two tier workforce.

Clearly a firm lead from the union leadership is required, particularly in light of the danger of the two tier work force. What is needed is an all union response rather than allowing each department to go its own way. PCS has been talking of a national fight on pay; obviously we need one now on the defence of terms and conditions – and we need that now.

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