Tens of thousands of civil servants will go on strike for 48 hours on 8 and 9 March as a row over changes to staff redundancy terms escalates.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said as many as 270,000 public servants could walk out, including jobcentre staff, tax workers, coastguards, border agency officials and courts staff.
Union chiefs have threatened further strikes every week in March as a consequence of the Cabinet Office making what they call “unilateral changes” to the civil service compensation scheme.
According to the union, 63.4% of those voting backed strike action, and 81.4% supported an overtime ban.
The PCS national executive committee will be meeting next week to finalise further strike dates, which could include national walkouts and targeted strike action.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “These cuts, which will see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job, are more about crude politicking than making savings. We have suggested ways in which the government can make these savings while protecting the rights of existing members, yet it seems intent on penalising the people who keep this country running.”
Other civil service unions have reached agreement with ministers over the reforms.
Cabinet office minister Tessa Jowell said: “It is very disappointing that the PCS has decided to take industrial action, especially given that less than one in five of their own members voted in favour of strike action, and that, overall, this figure represents only around 10% of the total civil service workforce. This is, furthermore, the lowest turnout for a PCS ballot in recent years.
“The public will find it difficult to understand the PCS continuing to protest on their own against a package which brings the Civil Service into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector.”