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Public and Commercial Services Union members at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are to take 20 days of rolling strike action in a long-running dispute over budget cuts and redundancies.

The walkouts from the equality watchdog, which begin at the commission’s Glasgow office on Monday (15 May), follow 7 previous days of strike action in November, December, January, February and March.

Nine staff were given dismissal notices on 9 February, some by email with just 24 hours’ notice; three members of staff were also sacked by email a few weeks later. The EHRC put staff back on to the pay roll after protests by PCS and other unions but the dismissal notices have not been withdrawn and the staff concerned are banned from EHRC premises, their reinstatement is also part of the campaign.

Of the eight union members issued notices of compulsory redundancy, six are black or minority ethnic, five are disabled and seven are older workers. Four are union reps and one was a lead negotiator opposing the cuts. We are now pursuing legal action against the EHRC for victimisation of trade union representatives.

The union argues the staff should be redeployed into Commission vacancies – more than 30 of which have been identified within the Commission, some of which are the equivalent grades of the sacked staff – or found roles in the wider civil service.

The Commission's expenditure report for April shows it has spent £90,876 on agency staff in April and £17,900 on recruitment costs. The spending on agency staff is a significant increase on previous months - £44,000 in January, £61,000 in February and £65,000 in March.

The union says the EHRC has failed to adequately consider the equality implications of its restructuring, something it is responsible for ensuring other public bodies adhere to.

These cuts would leave the commission toothless and could threaten its UN-accredited status as a human rights body, the union says.

The strike action includes the following dates:

EHRC Glasgow –15 May to 19 May
EHRC London –22 May to 26 May
EHRC Cardiff – 29 May to 2 June
EHRC Manchester – 5 June to 9 June.
In addition, members will also be involved in action short of strike at these offices.

Some of the striking members are expected to be welcomed at the second day of the union’s annual delegate conference in Brighton on 24 May.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members only take strike action as a last resort but management’s reluctance to adequately address their concerns have given them no choice.

“There are vacancies at the Commission and there is no reason why our members can’t have those jobs.

“The fact that the government has cut the Commission to a quarter of its original size demonstrates the Tories’ lack of commitment to equality and human rights issues.

“Further budget and staff cuts would leave the commission toothless at a time when more needs to be done to tackle hate crime and discrimination.”



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