PCS union members in more than 200 government departments are being balloted for strike action over pay, pensions and redundancy terms in the civil service.
It follows the government’s rejection of the Public and Commercial Services Union’s demands for a 10% pay rise, a 2% cut in pensions contributions and a £15-per-hour minimum wage.
The proposed action is also in response to plans announced by Boris Johnson in May to cut 91,000 roles – one in five jobs – in an effort to reduce the size of the civil service to 2016 levels.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the vote is the “most significant ballot for strike action” in the PCS union’s 24-year history and that it was left with “no choice”.
“In 41 years of working in and around the civil service, I have never seen such a shocking situation,” he said. “This is the worst it has ever been – a crisis of monumental proportions, the biggest cut in living standards civil servants have ever known.
[Our members] have had enough of being treated with contempt. They’re not bowler-hatted mandarins – they’re the people who, unobtrusively, have kept the country running during the pandemic” – Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary
“The stress of working in the civil service, under the pressure put on us with job cuts, office closures and the cost-of-living crisis is too much to bear.”
In May 2022, a PCS poll of its members found that 81% were willing to take industrial action.
Last month the Cabinet Office published plans to limit voluntary redundancy payments to three weeks’ pay per year of service, to limit the maximum redundancy and exit pay to 18 months’ salary, and to cap compulsory redundancy payments at nine months’ salary.
It estimated that the proposed package would reduce the cost of an average exit entitlement by 26% compared to the 2010 terms. Serwotka described the proposals at the time as an “insult”.
“Hard-working civil servants are being told to accept a 10% real-terms pay cut at the same time as bankers are being told they can help themselves to even greater riches – is it any wonder they’re angry?” he asked.
Civil service strike ballot
“Our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, with many of them having to claim the benefits they administer themselves, some skipping meals because they can’t afford to buy food, and others having to use foodbanks.”
“They’ve had enough of being treated with contempt. They’re not bowler-hatted mandarins – they’re the people who, unobtrusively, have kept the country running during the pandemic.”
Current civil service pay rises range up to 3%, with departments able to make average increases up to 2%, and a further 1% rise if they can demonstrate the pay would address specific priorities in the workforce.
A government spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to our engagement with staff and unions. Industrial action should always be a last resort and we are working to minimise any potential disruptions to ensure the civil service continues to deliver public services with value for money to the taxpayer.”
Serwotka launched the ballot yesterday at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. The postal ballot closes on 7 November, with the result expected to be announced at the union’s national executive committee meeting on 10 November.