UK offers £1,500 payment to civil servants in bid to end strikes

2023-06-02 15:19:15

UK ministers have offered junior and mid-ranking civil servants a one-off payment of £1,500 in a push to end a long-running dispute over pay and jobs.

In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Simon Case, cabinet secretary and the UK’s most senior mandarin, told civil service colleagues on Friday that the lump sum was “in recognition of your public service and the challenges to the cost of living”.

The deal would also include a freeze on current redundancy compensation levels until 2025 and a pledge to avoid compulsory redundancies “where possible”, Case noted in his letter, which was cosigned by Alex Chisholm, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office.

The proposals come as ministers push to end the biggest wave of public sector strikes in decades, in which hundreds of thousands of civil servants have walked out over demands for higher pay amid the cost of living crisis.

Case’s letter followed meetings earlier on Friday between Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin and leaders of the three main civil service trade unions, building on pay increases outlined previously.

The government in April set out plans to allow Whitehall departments to award staff an average pay rise of 4.5 per cent, with an extra 0.5 per cent increase for lower-paid workers. But the Public and Commercial Services union, Prospect and the FDA all criticised the deal as significantly worse than settlements offered to other public sector staff.

According to official civil service workforce data up to March last year, the one-off £1,500 payment for the 2023-24 financial year would apply to roughly 400,000 full-time employees and 100,000 part-time staff, who are in line to receive a prorated payment. Pay for senior officials is determined by a different process.

Officials said the proposed payment factored in fairness for the taxpayer and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to halve inflation this year.

Responding to the offer, the PCS said on Friday that the Cabinet Office had “listened and responded to the concerns of our members after . . . the most industrial action in the union’s history in this dispute”. It added that its national executive committee would meet on June 5 to scrutinise the deal.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, which last week called off a strike planned for next week to allow for talks with Quin, also welcomed the deal.

He said that while walkouts by his members had “been critical in getting to this point”, the offer “in principle addresses the three issues at the heart of this dispute” and would be consulted on.

Meanwhile Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, which represents senior officials, said the union’s concerns had “been heard” after it threatened to ballot members for national walkouts over pay for the first time in 40 years.

Describing the lump sum as “a significant amount of money”, he said: “For the first time in many years, we have reached a tangible, positive outcome for the civil service which compares well with the rest of the public sector.”

Penman added that the FDA’s executive committee would meet on June 8 to formally consider the package and its paused ballot for industrial action.

Quin said he was “determined that civil servants are rewarded fairly for the vital work they do across the country” and pleased with unions’ “constructive engagement”.

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