The civil service’s biggest union has set out details of its 2022 pay demands to individual departments – with a 10% pay hike at the heart of its ask.
PCS is also seeking guarantees over the continuation of London weighting payments, which it says should be set at a minimum of £5,000 a year, and a £15-an-hour “living wage” floor for all departmental staff.
It is not the first time the union has sought a double-digit annual rise for departmental staff to counter what has been a decade of public sector pay restraint, begun under the coalition government.
Last year research by the Prospect union suggested that the cash value of civil service pay awards had suffered an 18% real-terms cut since 2010-11, when measured against the Retail Price Index.
The latest inflation figures, published by the Office for National Statistics yesterday, put RPI at 7.5% in the 12 months to December. The main official measure of inflation – the Consumer Price Index – was 5.4% over the same period, a lower increase but still a 30-year high.
In October, chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the current pay freeze for civil servants earning more than £24,000 a year would end from the next financial year. However, the government has yet to spell out what this will mean for officials’ pay packets.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said at the time that the Treasury’s commitment would be an empty gesture if civil servants did not receive at least an inflationary rise in 2022-23.
In its latest demands, PCS is also asking departments to set single annual-salary rates for the job at each grade. In the case of the Department for Health and Social Care the figure being sought for an administrative assistant is £19,918, rising to £75,914 for a Grade 6 official. At the Home Office, the target rates are £18,244 for an AA and £74,091 for a Grade 6 staff member.
PCS flagged its national ballot on public sector pay, which is due to run from 14 February to 21 March, and is designed to gauge members' appetite for industrial action should ministers decide not increase pay appropriately.
“If the government is not prepared to act to tackle the cost-of-living crisis for its own workers, then we must look at what action members are prepared to take,” the union warned.
“This is not a strike ballot. It will ask members what action they would be prepared to take. A statutory industrial action ballot might follow later.”
PCS’s call for the protection of London weighting allowances is a clear response to pressure from some departments for a rethink on the payments after remote-working arrangements during the pandemic reduced commuting costs for officials.
Other demands the union is making of departments include 35 days a year of annual leave for new starters and a “significant reduction” in the working week, without an accompanying loss of pay.