The government must intervene on behalf of Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) staff serving overseas, who are facing ‘halved incomes’ due to Brexit contract changes, Unite, the UK's leading union, said today (Thursday 10 December). 

On Monday, UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace MP, agreed to discuss the situation with the CWGC after the issue was raised by Rachel Hopkins MP in the House of Commons. 

CWGC staff who are British citizens but work in countries such as France and Belgium will no longer be entitled to UK contracts after December 31 2020, when the Brexit transition period ends. 

Instead the CWGC, where Unite has more than 50 members, has told staff they have the choice of switching to contracts based in the country they are working in or be repatriated back to the UK. 

Moving onto the new contracts means switching to their country of employment’s tax code and changes to pensions and other terms and conditions. The staff have also received no guarantees that their health care arrangements will continue as before.

The Unite, PCS and Prospect unions say that staff face losing up to half their incomes if they accept the changes. 

The CWGC set a deadline of December 7 for staff to accept a ‘Brexit mitigation payment’ of around £30,000. However, the unions are clear the compensation is inadequate when the total loss of earnings for those who remain in country is taken into account.

Unite 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.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission guarantees needed over Brexit contract changes for staff

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.