Employers warn of perils of backing down as 200,000 PCS civil servants go on strike

Employers have urged the government to stand firm on public sector salaries as up to 200,000 civil servants went on strike today.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are taking part in a one-day stoppage over pay and job security.

The union claims that today’s action, timed to coincide with deadline day for self-assessment tax returns, will:

  • delay up to half a million tax returns
  • close the Welsh Assembly
  • see driving tests cancelled
  • force court hearings to be rescheduled
  • shut job centres and tax offices
  • cause delays passing through immigration
  • close museums and galleries.

But David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told Personnel Today that he had “no sympathy” for the strike.

“The chancellor is right to control public sector pay,” he said. “Those in the public sector not only have better pay and better holidays than those in the private sector – they have better pensions, too.”

Any hike in civil service salaries would mean a double whammy for businesses of higher taxes and pressure to raise wages, he added.

The PCS called the strike over the government’s massive programme of public sector reforms. In July 2004, it set out to make £20bn savings over four years by slashing 80,000 jobs, relocating 20,000 roles from the South East and making many other efficiency gains.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Today’s strike illustrates the depth of anger over the damage crude job cuts are having, and the growing frustration over below inflation pay offers.

“If the government is to avoid the prospect of more strikes and disruption, then it needs to give assurances over jobs, services and privatisation, as well as making serious headway in tackling pay inequalities and low pay in the Civil Service and related bodies.”

Paul Gray, chairman of HM Revenue & Customs, said: “I see no reason for the strike action.

“We have a three-year pay deal in place which was agreed by the unions in 2005. We will of course continue to work closely with all the department’s trade unions on issues affecting our employees.”

Cabinet Office minister Pat McFadden said: “There is no need for strike action. If PCS members have concerns about job losses or pay, there is an established industrial relations process to discuss these issues.

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