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Trade unions threaten national strike over Tory plans to slash a fifth of civil service jobs

By Torcuil Crichton

Boris Johnson faces the threat of a national public sector strike over plans to axe tens of thousands of civil service jobs.

The Prime Minister put himself on a collision course with trade unions after it was revealed he has tasked his Cabinet with cutting about 90,000 jobs.

Unions reacted with fury after Johnson told ministers on Thursday that the public sector jobs should be slashed by a fifth with one leader warning that national strike action was “very much on the table”.

Mark Serwotka, of the Public and Commercial Services union, said the job cuts would affect anyone relying on public services.

He said: “The Government complains about longer delays for passports and driving licences at the same time as sacking the people who are working so hard to clear the backlog.”

“This is not about efficiency. This is about the Prime Minister trying to create a smokescreen to detract from his utter shambles of a Government.”

The civil service trade union is to hold an emergency meeting of its executive committee next week to discuss its response with strike action high on the agenda.

Serwotka said: “Our members will not be the scapegoats for a failing Government. We have our conference in ten days’ time. Taking national strike action is very much on the table.”

Thousands of UK civil servants work in Scotland in places as diverse as Job Centres and at the International Development HQ in East Kilbride.

PCS Scotland tweeted: "We will defend jobs and public services by any means necessary, including strike action. It's not just for our members but for the public who rely on the vital services that PCS members deliver day in, day out."

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, said the proposal represented “an outrageous act of vandalism on our public services.”

He said: “The big cuts to public services since 2010 have often proved an expensive error – these proposals risk doubling down on the mistake.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, defended the plan on Friday against accusations that the strategy was simply to distract from the Government’s failure to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

The Minister said the job cuts would bring numbers back to 2016 levels after extra staff were brought in to help deal with the pandemic and the “aftermath of Brexit”.

He told Sky News: “I know it sounds eye-catching but it’s just getting back to the Civil Service we had in 2016. Since then, we’ve had to take on people for specific tasks.

“So dealing with the aftermath of Brexit and dealing with Covid, so there’s been a reason for that increase, but we’re now trying to get back to normal.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, which represents senior civil servants, responded: “The reason for the Civil Service’s expansion since 2016 isn’t because the Government loosened the purse strings. The Government needed civil servants to deal with the consequences of two unprecedented events: Brexit and the Covid pandemic."

He added: "To govern is to choose and ultimately this Government can decide to cut the Civil Service back to 2016 levels, but it will also then have to choose what the reduced Civil Service will no longer have the capacity to do. Will they affect passports, borders or health?

“Without an accompanying strategy, these cuts appear more like a continuation of the Government’s Civil Service culture wars, or even worse, ill-thought out, rushed job slashes that won’t lead to a more cost-effective government.”

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Dive Deeper:
Civil service union warns of strike over Boris Johnson’s plan to cut 91,000 jobs
PCS leader says members have reached ‘tipping point’ after PM’s combative move
Boris Johnson warned ballot on strike action ‘almost inevitable’ over plan to axe 90,000 civil service jobs
Unions also accuse PM of treating government employees with ‘contempt’
Unions to meet Government officials as anger grows over civil service job cuts
The PCS has warned of strike action in response to Boris Johnson’s plans.
Scots could be ‘hit hardest by civil service job cuts’ in UK
THE SNP have warned Tory plans to slash the civil service to its pre-Brexit levels could hit Scotland harder than…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Jacob Rees-Mogg defends plan to cut 90,000 civil servant jobs
The Prime Minister hinted the money saved by cutting the Civil Service by a fifth could be used for tax…
Efficiency minister denies proposed Civil Service cuts are a return to austerity
The Prime Minister was understood to have told his Cabinet on Thursday that the service should be slashed by a…
Get all your news in one place