Campaign timeline

10 May 2010

Our victory in the High Court over changes to the civil service compensation scheme came after months of negotiations and campaigning. Here are some of the key milestones of the campaign.

Plans announced: 31 July 2009

After months of negotiations with the unions without reaching an agreement, the Cabinet Office announces plans for “reform” of the civil service compensation scheme.

PCS responds by saying the new terms would amount to the loss of tens of thousands of pounds for many civil servants if they were made redundant.

The union warns that the cuts proposed would make it easier and cheaper for the government to cut more jobs and privatise more of our public services.

The union also announces it had received detailed legal advice and was considering applying for a judicial review to halt the process.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka describes the plans as “a disgraceful attempt by the government to replace a fair, negotiated right to decent compensation with a bargain basement pay-off at a time of massive insecurity over jobs”.

TUC conference: September 2009

An emergency motion opposing cuts to the compensation scheme receives unanimous backing at the TUC annual congress.

Moving the motion for PCS, Mark Serwotka says: “It is clear that it is not just the civil service that is affected by this, but the rest of the public sector. The prime minister on Tuesday raised the prospect of cuts in payouts for other public sector workers when he called on all public authorities to make similar reviews of their terms.

"We must therefore stand together, shoulder to shoulder, to stop the government from cutting jobs on the cheap.”

Consultation: autumn 2009

Almost half of the 18,000 people who respond to the government’s official consultation over the changes copy PCS into their emails.

In addition, 35,000 PCS members attend workplace meetings organised by the union expressing their opposition to the government’s proposals, and more than 1,000 people contact their MPs using the campaign email tool on the PCS website.

Revised plans: 4 December 2009

Following the consultation, the Cabinet Office unilaterally announces revised plans for the scheme despite ministers having instructed officials to meet PCS and other civil service unions again to discuss our concerns. In the previous two months, four scheduled meetings were cancelled.

After pressure by the union and the thousands of responses to the consultation, the new plans represent a limited improvement – to cap payments at three years or £50,000, instead of two years.

Legal action and strike ballot: 10 December 2004

PCS announces its intention to launch a judicial review and a strike ballot among its 270,000 members in the civil service and related agencies.

MPs’ support: 8 January 2010

The union announces that 105 MPs have now signed a parliamentary motion opposing the cuts to the compensation scheme.

Early day motion 251, tabled by Katy Clark, expressed "deep concern at proposed changes to the civil service compensation scheme".

Strike ballot: 3 February 2010

PCS announces members will be balloted for industrial action. The ballot will run from 4 to 25 February.

Strike vote: 25 February 2010

The union announces its intention to take industrial action after strong support in a ballot which sees 63.4% of those voting backing strike action and 81.4% supporting an overtime ban.

Lobby of parliament: 3 March 2010

More than 100 PCS representatives from across the UK lobby their MPs over cuts to the scheme. A pre-lobby rally, chaired by PCS president Janice Godrich, is addressed by MPs John McDonnell and David Drew MP PCS general secretary and Mark Serwotka.

Two-day strike: 8 and 9 March

Around 200,000 PCS members take strike action on 8 and 9 March. Highlights include:

  • Picket lines at Houses of Parliament for the first time in a generation
  • Cancellation of crown and county court sittings across England and Wales
  • Solid support among civilian Met Police staff, including 999 operators, community support officers and Houses of Parliament security
  • The cancellation of 2,000 driving tests
  • Only ground floor in Victoria and Albert museum open to the public
  • Cancellation of passport appointments across the UK
  • 70% of UK Border Agency staff on strike at Gatwick airport, and more than 90% of UKBA staff at Dover and on juxtaposed controls in Calais, Dunkirk, Coquelles and Boulogne on strike.

Battle bus: 19 March 2010

PCS reps and officials take a battle bus tour of key sites in London, including civil service minister Tessa Jowell’s Dulwich and West Norwood constituency.

The bus also stopped outside the headquarters of Unison, where that union’s general secretary Dave Prentis showed his support alongside Bob Crow (RMT), Chris Blower (NUT), Sally Hunt (UCU), Gerry Doherty (TSSA), Matt Wrack (FBU) and Michelle Stanistreet (NUJ).

Budget day strike: 24 March 2010

Chancellor Alistair Darling crosses two pickets – one at the Treasury and one at Houses of Parliament – on his way to the Commons to deliver his budget.

Again, about 200,000 PCS members join the strike, which in some areas is better supported than the previous two-day action.

More MPs sign up: 1 April 2010

On the day the amendment to the compensation scheme comes into effect, PCS announces that almost half of Labour’s backbenchers have now signed early day motion 251.

[The final tally of signatories before parliament was dissolved for the general election was 176 MPs, 121 of whom were Labour]

Battle bus tours: from 20 April 2010

The union takes battle buses around some key ministerial constituencies across the UK, starting with a London tour on 20 April that included Tessa Jowell’s constituency. Other events include:

  • Wednesday 21 April: battle bus and leafleting in home secretary Alan Johnson’s constituency of Hull, following the decision by the UK Border Agency to be the first to push for redundancies under the new compensation scheme terms. To highlight the job losses, ‘Postman Cutts’ issues P45s to staff outside Mr Johnson's constituency office
  • Thursday 22 April: battle bus visits some of the main government offices in south Wales as well as the Welsh Assembly buildings in Cardiff Bay and Cathays Park
  • Friday 23 April: battle bus and leafleting in David Miliband’s South Shields constituency
  • Saturday 24 April: voters urged to back the union’s campaign in constituencies of Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Jack Straw (Blackburn) and Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth).

Judicial review: 22 and 23 April 2010

PCS takes its legal challenge against changes to the compensation scheme to the High Court with a two-day judicial review hearing.

The union’s case is that because the changes are detrimental to existing civil and public servants, the government had no authority to amend the scheme without the agreement of PCS – by far the largest of the civil service unions.

Victory: 10 May 2010

Mr Justice Sales rules the changes unlawful and quashes the amendment.

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