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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 October 2009

Battle for jobs in Land Registry

PCS members in Land Registry (LR) have been stunned by plans to close five offices, outsource work and cull the lowest paid clerical grades.

The plans are part of the agency's accelerated transformation programme (ATP) and will directly affect an estimated 1,400 staff who face either losing their job or being privatised. This affects around 20% of LR's 5,700 workforce.

The plans contain proposals to close offices in Peterborough, Portsmouth, Croydon, Stevenage, and Tunbridge Wells. Two offices in Plymouth have been identified for merger and LR head office is earmarked for downsizing. This devastating programme of cuts is planned for completion by September 2011.

Michael Kavanagh, PCS LR group president, said: "The proposals are utterly unacceptable... We (PCS) will seek to defeat the proposals through political campaigning and negotiations, but we will not hesitate to ballot for strike action if necessary."

These attacks stem from the government's Operational Efficiency Programme, where low paid civil servants are expected to pay the price for the recession. In stark contrast, LR chief executive Peter Collis earned between 175,000 and 185,000 last year at a time that LR was making record losses. Questions also need to be asked about the cost of various consultants used during the ATP process.

PCS members will be balloted on a programme based around no job cuts, no office closures and no privatisation. If there is no movement from management, members will be balloted on industrial action including strike.

The main industrial campaign will be supported by a massive political and public campaign based around the PCS pamphlet An Alternative Vision for Land Registry, which will put forward arguments for completion of the Land Register.

Scandalously, in 150 years of land registration, less than 70% of land in England and Wales has been registered. Much of the land which remains unregistered belongs to wealthy landowners and an incomplete register suits their purposes, allowing them to hide their land assets from public scrutiny. As well as safeguarding members' jobs, completion of the land register is clearly in the public interest.

We are determined to win this battle and are convinced that we have a strategy capable of engaging members and winning the political and public arguments. We are equally confident that if required we will be able to organise industrial action in defence of members' jobs.

Emily Kelly and Elenor Haven PCS LR GEC, Dave Lunn acting vice president PCS LR GEC, Julie Young, PCS Northern region organiser, Anna Hickman, chair PCS LR Weymouth branch, all in a personal capacity.

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