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Tories monitoring civil servants with Big Brother-style surveillance system to ‘boost efficiency’

CIVIL SERVANTS working from home are at risk of being victimised by a worrying Big Brother-style form of Tory surveillance, their union warned today.

The Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the Cabinet Office has introduced a system, thought to include the monitoring of computer logins, to keep tabs on those working away from offices in a bid to “boost efficiency.”

This is despite thousands of home-working civil servants successfully delivering services to the public since the first Covid-19 lockdown began in March 2020, the union said.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This is a worrying Big Brother-style development that we fear could be used to victimise our members who work from home rather than in the office.

“We hoped the bogus argument about having to be in the office to do the job had been put to bed following the demonstrable success of our members working efficiently and productively at home during the pandemic.

“So to resurrect it now, at a time when our members are worried about job cuts and the cost-of-living crisis, is an unnecessary provocation.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told the Morning Star: “We have been consistently clear that we want to see office attendance across the Civil Service consistently back at pre-pandemic levels.

“Ministers and officials at all levels are keeping the machinery of government working ahead of what we know will be a challenging few months.

“As you would expect, workplace attendance has been lower in summer as staff take annual leave and with the impact of recent rail strikes, but this has not prevented civil servants from delivering vital public services.”

Relations between the government and the Civil Service are at an all-time low.

The PCS, which represents about 177,000 workers in government departments and agencies, public bodies, private-sector IT firms and other companies, is set to launch a national strike ballot on September 26.

The move, overwhelmingly backed by members at the union’s annual conference in Brighton in May, follows years of declining real-terms pay and a threat by ministers to slash 91,000 Civil Service jobs. 

Ministers argue that the service, expanded to cope with Brexit and the pandemic, needs to return to pre-2016 staffing levels, but Mr Serwotka has warned that the sector was already dangerously short of workers six years ago.

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