Judge’s rulings and legal arguments = redundancy uncertainty. More details.

Okay, so here’s a little more clarity on a couple of issues from the union. But just a little.

One of our union guys here at Stevenage was in the court yesterday for some of the hearing so came round to tell us what he could about the proceedings. First off, he was keen to point out that Land Registry management are “blameless” with regard to what was announced yesterday. Quite the opposite, in fact: he told us that the board – in particular the HR director – “went the extra mile” to get the guarantee in place that if we go before 31st July we’d be leaving under the terms of the current scheme. That’s not a civil-service wide guarantee, it’s especially for Land Registry, he told us. The common view (of management and union) is that the reason Cabinet Office are so reluctant to allow such guarantees is that they want to keep a tight rein on timings so that they could respond quickly to any new government legislation affecting the existing scheme.

The expectation was that yesterday’s hearing would be about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. It went on all day, and our union guy wasn’t sure if it reached a conclusion: it may still be happening now. What’s making it take so long, by his account, is the argument being raised by the Cabinet Office. I didn’t understand the full details, but apparently the QC for the cabinet office is arguing that the Civil Service Compensation Scheme is a “package”, and that certain elements of that package should be included in the judge’s ruling to enable them to negotiate a new package. While our guy was still present, the judge was saying he was not minded to allow that, as in his view the scheme could not be broken down into individual elements in the way they were suggesting. But he was going to listen to all their representations and may be persuaded to change his view. As I say, I don’t really understand all of that.

And on top of these delays, the Cabinet Office have said in open court that they will be minded to appeal the judge’s decision to the higher courts if it goes against them. Everyone was apparently surprised at that one. And it was speculated today that if they do appeal, they could impose a moratirium on redundancies until it’s all concluded, and god only knows how long that could go on.

As for what happens after 31st July? Quite simply, no-one knows. Maybe the date could be extended. Maybe not. Maybe a new scheme might be well under the way to negotiation by then. Maybe not. Maybe the cabinet office no of some other factor that’s dependent on that date. Maybe not.

The one guarantee that they were able to make is that if you apply to go before 31 July 2010 (and it’s accepted) then you will be going under the current terms. But once that’s agreed, there will be no going back. So if the eventual outcome is that the existing scheme still stands to the end, tough. You’ve gone. I understand that something similar happened when they closed Harrow Office: a load of people left at short notice as it looked like their scheme at the time was under immediate threat, but it tuned out that they would have been safe to stay a while longer.

It’s a tough choice.

I’ve asked the transition team what’s the last date I’d need to let them know if I decide to go on the 31st July. The reply? “No deadline has been set as such, but the minimum lead time is normally one month”. In other words, let them know as soon as possible.

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