Public and Commercial Services union chief Mark Serwotka confirms public sector strike on 1 May

Union chief Mark Serwotka has criticised private sector employers as he formally announced that a one-day strike will be held across the civil service on 1 May.

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Serwotka said business leaders were being dogmatic in their belief that public sector pay should not rise.

Civil servants first held a strike on 31 January to protest against job cuts, pay levels and privatisation.

The union claimed that up to 200,000 government workers stayed at home, disrupting half a million tax returns and forcing many public buildings to close.

David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told Personnel Today at the time 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.”

But Serwotka has insisted that this headstrong approach from business and government would not defeat the union.

He said: “Services are suffering in the race to slash jobs at the same time as the government is using its own workforce as an anti-inflationary measure by insisting on capping pay at 2% as inflation creeps up to 5%.

“Added to this you have the dogmatic march of the private sector, with the ill conceived view that the private sector is always better than the public.

“The government and civil service management need to recognise that they can’t continue to bury their head in the sand and [need to] start negotiating with the union to resolve the dispute.”

The long-running battle stems from 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.

Mayday has also been designated a “defend public services day” by the TUC,  which is supporting the strike.

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