Serwotka: “We will not be bullied by the government”

by - 21st December 2011, 8.39 GMT

The PCS has said the government’s “unacceptable bullying” will not deter the union’s members from standing up for what is right.

During his statement to Parliament yesterday, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander singled out PCS, accusing the union of “walking away from talks” – a claim strongly denied by the union which says they were told they no longer invited to negotiations.

In a letter to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude yesterday, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote: “As the union representing the overwhelming majority of civil servants we want to reach an agreement, but we could not accept that the government’s proposals are an unalterable framework within which any discussions have to take place. PCS would expect to be involved in any further discussions which take place in relation to the government’s proposals.”

The union has reiterated its commitment to negotiating but ministers have refused to negotiate on the three core issues of forcing public servants to pay hundreds of pounds more each year in pensions contributions, work for up to eight years longer and receive much less in retirement – in many cases, tens of thousands of pounds.

Of all the proposed changes, these will have the biggest impact on the pensions of millions of public servants. Not a single penny of the extra contributions will go to make pensions any more affordable – because this is not required – the money will go to the Treasury to pay off the budget deficit caused by the recession and bailing out the banks.

While talks with Cabinet Office officials have been held in recent weeks on aspects of the civil service scheme, there have been no central negotiations with ministers on these key issues since 2 November.

At a meeting of the TUC’s public sector liaison group on Monday, Mark Serwotka reported the union’s view that nothing had changed since the public sector strike on 30 November, that the offer on the table in the civil service was not good enough, and that further industrial action will be necessary in the new year if the government’s continues to refuse to negotiate on the main issues.

He said: “It is extraordinary how PCS members have been treated by this government, simply for saying they will not accept being made to pay more and work longer for tens of thousands of pounds less in their retirement.

“This kind of unacceptable bullying will not deter union members from standing up for what is right, and opposing the government’s attempts to make them pay the price for a recession they did not cause. We remain committed to negotiating with ministers, but they continue to refuse even though we believe they have a legal obligation to do so.”