Page last updated at 01:57 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Union to hold strike ballot over redundancy 'cuts'

Job Centre
Workers at Job Centres are among those being balloted

More than 250,000 public sector workers are to be balloted on strike action over what their union says are "macho" government cuts to redundancy payments.

Job centre, customs and immigration workers could stage a two-day walkout in March if the action is approved.

Public and Commercial Services union leaders say the cuts to the civil service compensation scheme, which will take effect in April, are illegal.

Government officials said any strike action was "misguided".

'Too generous'

The PCS union says an employee with 20 years' service on an annual salary of £24,000 could lose £20,000 as a result of new caps on pay-offs to those laid off and taking voluntary redundancy.

The union plans to take legal action against the government over the measure, describing it as "an absolute disgrace".

If its 270,000 members approve strike action, it says a planned two-day walkout could be followed by a series of rolling strikes in March and April - just weeks before the expected date of the general election.

"Margaret Thatcher introduced this compensation scheme but the Labour government is now saying it is too generous and wants to rob hard-working low-paid public servants," said the union's general secretary Mark Serwotka.

"Workers are being robbed of their accrued rights, so it is no wonder they feel so angry."

But Sir Gus O'Donnell, Head of the Civil Service, said the changes - which will save £500m - had been backed by five other unions and included "substantial protection" for those on the lowest incomes and nearing retirement.

"After 18 months of discussion, we now have the right deal that meets the interests of all parties," he said. "It is fair for civil servants and affordable for the taxpayer."

He added: "I believe the decision by the PCS union to continue opposing the proposals and ballot its members for industrial action is wholly misguided."

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