30 July 2004
Whitehall's two most influential unions clashed this week as the dispute over management at the Department for Work and Pensions escalated ahead of another 48-hour strike by staff.
Entering the long-running row over performance-related pay, job cuts and relocations, the FDA union – representing senior managers – attacked the tactics used by the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents the DWP's middle management and rank and file.
It followed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the DWP's senior management, announced by the PCS on July 27. The PCS balloted 32,625 staff, a third of its DWP members, and found that 98% were unhappy at the way the department was run.
But Jonathan Baume, the FDA's general secretary, condemned the ballot as 'divisive and counterproductive'. He also dismissed a PCS attack on mandarins' pay as unacceptable. '[This vote] will only result in worsening the industrial relations climate in the DWP,' he warned.
The department is under heavy pressure from the government following Sir Peter Gershon's review of Whitehall efficiency. The Treasury has told Work and Pensions Secretary Andrew Smith to slash 30,000 civil service posts. Smith has warned that redundancies could follow.
'The FDA shares with the PCS a range of concerns about issues under negotiation,' Baume said. 'Civil servants of all grades face a range of common problems, including major cuts in jobs which are as likely to bite as deeply in senior grades as for more junior staff.
'These difficult times require a mature and intelligent collective response, not a resort to cheap and divisive attacks on senior management.'
But news of the job cuts has angered low-grade staff, who believe they will bear the brunt. General secretary Mark Serwotka had earlier warned: 'Blindly imposing pay deals and bonus schemes, which set staff against one another and presenting fait acompli closures and job cuts is no way to treat a workforce.'
Meanwhile, 80,000 PCS members were expected to lead a 48-hour walkout at jobcentres, pensions offices, the Child Support Agency and DWP buildings across the UK on July 29 and 30.
It is the third national DWP strike this year and was called in response to the controversial performance-related pay system imposed by permanent secretary Sir Richard Mottram in May.