Apprentices must not replace current civil service staff, unions urge

Unions have expressed concerns over government plans to pave the way for more public sector apprenticeships by making thousands of redundancies.

According to the PCS union, up to 100,000 civil servants are earmarked for redundancy in the next four years. This coincides with proposals to take on 30,000 apprentices in the civil service by 2020, part of a move that would see apprentices make up 2.3 per cent of the public sector workforce.

The concerns were raised after a Cabinet Office report implied that making space to recruit apprentices would require reducing headcounts elsewhere.


‘Acute need to make space’

In the report, on the civil service redundancy scheme, the Cabinet Office said the current scheme was “too expensive in light of the national debt and budget”, and that “this is especially acute because of the requirement to reduce current staff numbers due to both the spending review and the need to create space to allow for the recruitment of apprentices”.

While the PCS union welcomes opportunities for apprentices to join the civil service, the plans amounted to the government recruiting public sector trainees “on the cheap”.

A spokesperson said: “PCS wants the civil service to grow and develop, and to provide opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to help tackle persistent under-representation in the senior ranks.

“But the government’s perverse policies of cutting jobs and redundancy pay, while bringing in apprentices on the cheap, is not the way to do it.”


Not ‘one in, one out’

Dave Penman, general secretary of the senior civil servants’ union FDA, added: “We need an unequivocal statement from the minister confirming that not a single job will be lost to make space for apprentices.”

Responding, a Cabinet Office spokesman said it would not be implementing a “one in, one out” policy”.

“It is absolutely untrue to suggest that any individual civil servant will be made redundant to make way for an apprentice. The government remains absolutely committed to the apprenticeships programme,” he added.