A union has won its High Court bid to halt government measures that would have cut redundancy pay for civil servants in order to save it £500 million over three years.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union had called for a judicial review after changes to the Civil Servant Compensation Scheme were introduced without union consent. The amendments led to reduced payments based on age and length of service.
The move, which the union argued was unlawful, resulted in a series of strikes, with tens of thousands of public servants walking out of job centres, benefit offices and Whitehall departments. The PCS claimed that the changes would have affected up to 100,000 staff and threatened to “rob” some of up to a third of their redundancy entitlements, which amounted to tens of thousands of pounds.
Yesterday at the High Court, however, Mr Justice Sales ruled in favour of the union and said that the changes, which came into force on 1 April this year, should be quashed.
He declared that the 1972 Superannuation Act conferred protection to all entitlements in the Scheme in relation to length of service and contributions paid and that union agreement was necessary before any alterations could be made.
After the ruling, PCS solicitor Richard Arthur said: “If the government wants to alter rights that have been agreed for civil servants, then it has to get the agreement of the unions. That is what the law says, and that is what the judge ruled.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka indicated that the decision was a “huge tribute” to union members who had faced some “disgraceful criticism from their employer and ministers” but “refused to sit back and watch their terms and conditions ripped up in front of their eyes”.
“We have always accepted that changes are necessary, but all we ever asked is that they were fair and protected those who have given loyal service. We will now be knocking on the door of the next government to remind ministers they are legally obliged to reach an agreement with us,” he added.
Failure to meet their obligations could lead to further industrial and legal action, Serwotka said.
The Government defended the legality of the amendments and pointed out that it had reached agreements with other trade unions over the changes.