Maude, who is spearheading attacks on civil servants’ terms and conditions and looking to drastically cut the amount of time union representatives can spend on vital work such as negotiating with employers, representing members and dealing with health and safety issues, had previously suggested unions could hold 15-minute stoppages instead of full days of action.
Thousands of civil servants are angry about the government’s plans to review all their terms and conditions, including hours, holidays and family-friendly policies such as flexible working and part-time. This is on top of cuts to jobs, pay and pensions already hitting many public sector workers.
PCS rep Ian Hough, who helped to organise the walkout with fellow rep Pat Cowling, said members wanted to show the minister their anger about the plans to rip up terms and conditions.
Ian said: “In November last year, Francis Maude kindly suggested that instead of strike action, it would be OK for people to do a walkout for 15 minutes.
“So we followed his advice and showed him we can let him know how we feel in 15 minutes. It was a fantastic turnout, especially considering we only found out he was visiting on Monday. We thought we couldn’t let this pass as if we hadn’t done anything he (Maude) would have taken it as a green light, so we had a quick meeting and got together a leaflet to publicise what we were planning.
“The walkout sent a message to him (Maude) that we don’t want you messing with our terms and conditions. We have got what we have got and we want to keep what we have got.
“I think any worker in the country would have been there to let someone like that know how we feel about the attack on our terms and conditions.”
The first deadline for departments to report on what terms and conditions can be reduced was the next day, making the Coventry walkout particularly timely.