About 100,000 civil servants will strike on 1 February in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, the Public and Commercial Services union has announced.
The action will coincide with the TUC’s “protect the right to strike day” announced on 10 January in response to new government legislation. It follows the largest mandate for strike action in the union’s history after a ballot last November.
The civil servants strike will involve members in 124 government departments and follows walkouts last month involving Border Force staff, driving examiners and National Highways workers.
The PCS union is calling for a 10% pay rise, protections to pensions and protections from job cuts.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka suggested there might be coordinated strike action with other unions on the same day, telling Sky News: “I think as long as the government retains its position of refusing to put money on the table, we will see more and more cooperation and coordination between unions. I don’t believe we will be the only union on strike on 1 February.”
Serwotka accused the government of “treating its own workforce worse than anyone else in the economy”. He added: “We’ve been given a 2% pay rise. We’ve been told tens of thousands of jobs are going to be slashed, our conditions are going to be cut. And we represent people who deliver public services from cradle to grave.”
The government has said the union’s pay demands would cost an “unaffordable” £2.4bn.
But the PCS boss said: “That’s the way of the government trying to avoid a sensible argument. We believe that if you get less than the rate of inflation, you’re actually poorer for going to work at the end of the year than you were at the start of the year and that can’t be right.”
He added: “Even if it’s true that it was to cost £2.4bn, that is a tiny fraction the Conservative government was prepared to borrow to give tax cuts to the richest in this country. So the government knows it can afford it.
“It knows if they gave us a pay rise, our members will spend it in their local economy, boosting manufacturing and the hospitality sector at a time of recession, unlike the rich who avoid paying taxes and put their money in the Cayman Islands. So it makes sense for the economy and it makes sense to ensure that civil servants are working but are in poverty.”
Serwotka said he was meeting Cabinet Office minister and paymaster general Jeremy Quin today (12 January) and said “if he puts some money on the table there is a chance this dispute can be resolved”.
The PCS and fellow civil service unions Prospect and FDA were invited to talks by Quin earlier this week.
The FDA is balloting its members over a strike in the civil service fast stream and Prospect is planning to ballot members over industrial action if there is no movement from the government.
The leaders demanded that its discussions with ministers were “meaningful”. In a joint letter to Quin this week, Dave Penman, the FDA general secretary, and Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, said: “We must be clear, however, that if you are serious about trying to resolve these issues we would expect that, at that meeting, government will have something meaningful to present to the unions rather than simply once again being in listening mode.”
Serwotka added that if there was no movement on the government’s offer then “he’ll see public services from benefits to driving tests, from passports to driving licences, from ports to airports affected by industrial action on February 1.”
The PCS said a further 33,000 members working in five more departments, including HMRC, were next week re-balloting to join the union’s national strike action.
Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, who last year accused civil servants of “skiving off” responded to news of the strike by tweeting “If they are not in the office will anyone notice?”.
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