The civil service’s biggest union increased its membership by 2,783 last year, ending what it described as a “decade of decline”.
PCS’s just-published Financial Report 2021 says total member numbers rose to 179,630 by the end of 2020 – a growth of 1.6% on the previous year. It said the increase has continued into 2021 with membership surpassing 183,000 by mid-February.
But the overall figure is still down by around 100,000 on 2010, when membership was just below the 300,000 mark. The union blames the sharp decline on the government’s attempts to end the so-called “check-off” system, where civil servants’ union subscriptions were withdrawn directly from paychecks.
The PCS financial report said the rise in membership was “largely due to the positive impact of the HMRC pay deal”, which offered an average 13% increase in pay over three years for the AA to G6 pay bands.
The deal was the result of months of negotiation between the PCS and HMRC management – along with fellow civil service unions Prospect and ARC, which is the FDA’s branch at the department. It also included a realignment of contracts for the tax-collection agency’s 60,000 staff to remove what HMRC perm sec Jim Harra called a “bewildering array” of different contracts.
Only HMRC staff who were members of the unions were given a vote on whether to accept the eventual offer.
PCS said the boost to its membership numbers over the past 12 months meant it took in £21.8m in subscriptions during 2020, the largest figure for five years. It also spent less on campaigns in 2020 than it did in 2019: £303,923, down from £618,747 the previous year.
Strategic legal cases and industrial action ballots were the biggest areas of reduced spending. The report said the reduction in spending was “linked to the impact of the Covid pandemic”.
Departments targeted for more check-off damages
In 2018 the PCS was awarded £3m in compensation from the Department for Work and Pensions following a High Court judgement over the ending of the check-off system for collecting union subscriptions directly from staff paychecks.
The financial report said the union believed there was a “reasonable case” to win further claims against other departments that also withdrew check-off. It has already served notice that it intends to seek compensation from the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and said it would “shortly” target the remaining departments.
“It is not possible to quantify the claims at this stage, however the sums are likely to be significant, and as with any legal matter is inherently unpredictable,” the report said.