Union wants pledge over jobs as services go on-line

16 May 02
The UK's biggest civil service union has demanded assurances from ministers that its e-government initiatives will not lead to substantial job cuts, after the e-envoy indicated that there could be large cuts in routine and clerical staff numbers.

17 May 2002

Members of the 280,000-member Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) called on the Office of the e-Envoy, led by Andrew Pinder, to provide a detailed breakdown of the effect on departments of meeting strict e-government targets by 2005.

A spokesman for the union said: 'We understand the need to provide the public with on-line services, but we want assurances that this is not going to lead to massive job cuts.'

Pinder told the Commons' Public Accounts Committee on May 13 that the government had not estimated how many jobs, if any, would be lost as a consequence of putting services on-line by 2005. But there would be 'many examples' of potential job cuts in routine and clerical services, he said.

Reports have suggested that as many as 800,000 posts – or 20% of all public sector jobs – could be lost through time and cost savings derived from services such as applying for benefits on-line.

Pinder denied that, but later added: 'The private sector could argue that you could take out 20% of the costs.'

PAC chair Edward Leigh expressed concern that the government had not estimated potential job losses, while George Osborne, Conservative MP for Tatton, told the e-envoy: 'You should have the courage to say where the cuts will appear.' Pinder said it was not his responsibility to deliver such figures.


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