A leading public sector union has said that plans to place a cap on the civil service compensation scheme will affect 30,000 civil servants in Northern Ireland and will lead to more compulsory redundancies than voluntary ones.
NIPSA believes the Superannuation Bill, which was still being debated in the House of Commons late last night, would create problems because the proposed measures would not be attractive to civil servants who may have considered voluntary severance.
The union estimates that 30,000 civil servants in Northern Ireland will be affected by the legislation, which plans to cap pay-offs at one year's salary for compulsory redundancies and 15 months for voluntary.
Currently, civil servants can get three years' salary, with those |recruited before 1987 entitled to as much as six years. Last night, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude urged civil service unions to agree the new redundancy terms before they become law.
Negotiations on reform to the system under the previous Labour administration were blocked after 18 months when the Public and Commercial Services union won a legal challenge in the High Court.
Mr Maude said that while he thought that agreement was too generous, there would have been a “pressing case” to leave it in place had it been finalised.
But the current arrangements made it “prohibitively expensive” to get rid of highly-paid, long-serving staff, Mr Maude said, meaning more lower-paid workers would be targeted if job cuts were needed.
Last night NIPSA general secretary Brian Campfield said the unions were prepared to negotiate but were not “prepared to do it with a gun held to our heads”.
“The background to this is that in Northern Ireland alone, in terms of civil service redundancies, over the next number of years we are expecting in the region of 4,000 redundancies,” he said.
“This is an attack on the redundancy compensation scheme so they can get away with making redundancies on the cheap.”