Civil servants at three departments to strike from mid-December

Strikes will kick off with month-long action at Home Office, DfT and Defra
PCS members are set to go on strike. Photo: Vuk Valcic/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

18 Nov 2022

PCS has announced civil servants will begin strike action in mid-December, starting with month-long targeted strikes in the Home Office, Department for Transport and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The industrial action will affect services including ports, borders and all areas of transport, some of which will be sustained throughout the festive period, PCS said.

Around 100,000 of PCS's civil service members voted in favour of industrial action, it announced last week, giving the government a week to make “concrete” proposals to avoid strikes.

A total of 126 departments and other public bodies both crossed the 50% turnout threshold required by law for strike action and returned a majority "yes" vote.

The union met with senior officials at the Cabinet Office this week but said they did not make any proposals that addressed its demands for a 10% pay rise, pensions conditions, job security and scrapping planned redundancy reforms.

PCS’s elected national executive committee today agreed the first round programme of targeted action, which will include several agencies within the three departments. An exact date has not yet been set for the strikes, however.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “PCS members are angry. They helped to keep this country running during the pandemic, and in return, have been treated appallingly by this government. With inflation now at 11.1%, it is inconceivable that they are expected to cope with yet another real-terms pay cut.

“With tens of thousands of members on poverty pay it is no longer about tightening belts, but about choosing between heating and eating – and that is simply not acceptable for the government’s own workforce.

“We have made it clear to the Cabinet Office that we are available for talks throughout this period. I hope that they do the right thing and come back to the table prepared to meet our demands. If not, then we are prepared to do what we need to do to show them the value of our members' work once they withdraw their labour.”

The Cabinet Office said PCS's demands would cost £2.4bn, adding that "comprehensive plans" are in place to keep essential services running and minimise disruption.

As well as core staff at the three departments, action in the Home Office will including Border Force staff.  DfT strikes will include the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and, at Defra, action will include the Rural Payments Agency.

Serwotka said this would mean thousands of civil servants will go on strike during the first phase of action but in "single figures of thousands" out of a potential 30,000 officials in the departments, during a press conference following the announcement.

PCS said its executive committee will meet again soon to consider further strikes if there are no proposals from the Cabinet Office that address its concerns. Serwotka said he will also meet Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin on Tuesday. 

Asked by CSW  how the union would support members striking during the press conference, Serwotka said plans to boost its strike fund would allow members to "carry on the campaign into 2023 if necessary".

All members who were balloted will get a temporary increase in subscription fees to be used solely to support officials on strike, he said. Serwotka said he anticipates this will double the fund over the next three months.

The union chief was also asked why PCS was sticking to the 10% figure in its pay rise demands when inflation is now 11.1%. 

Serwotka said: "We are the moderates in the room in relation to our pay claim. There clearly is an argument and I fully support those who are asking for more than that. But the claim that we put in is 10% as a first stage to match what inflation was and to deal with the immediate poverty that exists amongst the members."

A government spokesperson said: “We regret this decision. We greatly value the work of civil servants across the country, but the PCS Union's demands would cost an unaffordable £2.4bn at a time when our focus must be on bringing down inflation to ease the pressure on households across the country, protect the vulnerable and rebuild our economy.

“Discussions will continue, but we can provide reassurance that we have comprehensive plans in place to keep essential services running and to minimise disruption if these PCS strikes do go ahead.”

This article was edited at 4:29pm on 20 November to correct a typo. BS

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