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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Grave pay cuts

by New Worker correspondent

TWO CIVIL service unions, Prospect and PCS, along with Unite are taking up the cases of workers employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who are facing having their incomes cut in half and losing health benefits by the Tory Government using the excuse of Brexit.

A ‘Brexit Mitigation payment’ of up to £30,000 has been offered, which unions denounce as inadequate, should their members accept local contracts for the loss of earnings.

Defence minister Ben Wallace doubles up as chair of the Commission and can exert considerable pressure on the employer to give a fair deal to our members, says PCS, whose requests for further urgent negotiations have been completely ignored.

PCS says members have been given a false choice to either repatriate or face losing up to half their wages. The union also condemns the Government for deliberately withholding this information until the day after Armistice Day commemorations. The CWGC set a deadline of 7th December for accepting the £30,000.

Unite’s national officer Bev Clarkson said: “Commonwealth War Graves staff, many of whom left the UK years ago, face having their incomes halved or upending their home lives and that of their families. These are staff who perform an important duty on behalf of the UK and the other Commonwealth nations. The commission is treating them appallingly and the government must step in to protect their terms and conditions.”

One 61-year-old gardener, who had worked for 35 years for the Commission across Europe, told the Daily Mirror: “It’s shocking and it has been handled so badly. It’s just so unfair. We have all devoted our lives to looking after the graves of the brave soldiers who died and this is how we are being repaid. There has been no consultation – an email arrived one morning which gave us three weeks to make a decision. I feel so down.

“We either have to return to Britain, where many of us haven’t lived for years, or take these terms which basically means our pay is halved.”

But CWGC Director General Barry Murphy merely said: “We believe that the new arrangements will properly align this group with our existing staff in France and Belgium.”

As the New Worker goes to press there will be a Westminster Hall debate on the issue, The Government’s Brexit excuse is of course nonsense, because people working for the British government abroad are always paid British salaries.