The staff, members of the professionals' union Prospect, are fighting the refusal of the Commission's Board to protect their pensions after they are transferred to the private sector. They work at the Commission's headquarters in London and at regional offices in Bolton, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, Gateshead, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln and Solihull.
After three weeks of discussions with the Commission aimed at removing the threat of industrial action, the Audit Commission branch of Prospect today rejected a new management offer. This would have temporarily deferred an upcoming pensions contribution increase and covered the costs of staff forced to return company cars early because of the transfer.
As a result the action short of a strike, which Prospect had suspended as a token of goodwill while negotiations continued, will now begin at midnight on Monday 30 January.
The action will take the form of a work to rule and withdrawal of goodwill. It is in protest at the Commission’s failure to apply the government’s ‘Fair Deal’ on pensions for its staff being transferred to the private sector.
The Fair Deal requires that staff moving into the private sector are provided with pension arrangements that are ’broadly comparable’ with those they had in the public sector.
The withdrawal of overtime and goodwill will undoubtedly have an impact on the Commission’s ability to deliver end of year audits in the NHS, local authorities and other public bodies.
Prospect negotiator Richard Hardy, said: “We are disappointed that the Commission was unable to table an offer that would meet our members’ aspirations. As a result, our members will now take industrial action for the first time in their history.”
The Government last year announced it was closing the Commission by April 2013 and transferring its work to private sector providers.