A ballot of members of PCS, the biggest civil service trade union, found that 80% of them are prepared to take part in industrial action if government fails to scrap the public sector pay cap.
The survey revealed that 99% of civil servants want government to remove the 1% cap that has been in place since 2012, which followed a two-year pay freeze, and offer public sector staff an above-inflation rise.
The union is now demanding “urgent talks” with the government and MPs of all parties to put pressure on chancellor Philip Hammond as he prepares the autumn Budget.
PCS asked its members: “Do you agree that the pay cap should be scrapped; and that funds should be made available to provide you with an above inflation pay rise?”.
On a turnout of 48.8%, which the union says is the highest in its history, more than 75,000 people – 98.9% - answered yes. Just over 800 staff said no.
A subsequent question, “If the government refuse to scrap the pay cap, are you prepared to take part in industrial action”, received an affirmative response from almost 60,000 people (79.2%).
Any industrial action, including strikes, would require a further statutory ballot.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, described the result as a “damning indictment” of government pay policy.
He added: “Members have sent a clear signal that the cap must go and that they are prepared to fight for a decent pay rise.
“Theresa May and Philip Hammond have a clear choice – they can take note of this vote of their own staff and take action now or ignore it at their peril.
“Weasel words about waiting for pay review bodies in the spring won’t cut it. Our members are part of the 55% of the public sector that are not covered by these bodies. We need action now from the government not a promise of jam tomorrow.”
Following the poll, PCS, which has around 200,000 members and represents civil servants working at lower grades, is to consider balloting its members on further action.
Hammond is expected to make an announcement about the future of the pay cap when he delivers the Budget on 22 November.
In a letter sent to public sector pay review bodies in September, the Treasury signalled it was prepared to be more flexible on pay in 2018-19, particularly in areas of skills shortage and in return for improvements in public sector productivity.
In recent months the other civil service trade unions FDA and Prospect have also ramped up their campaigning for a pay cap lift.