David Blackburn

The lawyers are salivating

The lawyers are salivating
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Francis Maude and Mark Serwotka (the Public Commercial Service Union’s General Secretary) are in the opening steps of a soon to be furious jive. Maude hopes to slash ‘untenable’ civil service redundancy packages and will legislate to introduce caps at one year's pay for compulsory redundancies and 15 months salary for voluntary redundancies.

Maude’s logic is unanswerable: the public sector must contribute to redressing the deficit. The public sector doesn’t agree and has the common law behind it. On 22nd June, the High Court found in favour of the PCS on this very issue: the government can only change the redundancy scheme with the agreement of the union, which is unforthcoming at present.

Libertarians are convinced of parliament’s supreme legislative authority. But English law is an adamantine being, impeding the executive’s clear-minded excesses. Perhaps Maude is bluffing – an extreme prelude to more reasonable demands. But the High Court’s decision will be telling if he is not. Reneging on contractual pledges will be extremely costly.