100,000 civil servants vote to strike over pay, jobs and pensions

Union members at departments including the Home Office, DfT and the DWP back industrial action
PCS civil servants are set to go on strike

By Tevye Markson

10 Nov 2022

Around 100,000 civil servants have voted for strike action over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms in a ballot by the PCS union.

A huge majority of officials who voted in the ballot backed industrial action, with 86.2% voting in favour.

The legal turnout threshold of 50% was achieved in 126 out of 214 employer areas, allowing for major industrial action, including in the Home Office, Department for Transport and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Officials in the civil service’s biggest union were balloted on whether they wanted to strike over "the biggest cut in living standards civil servants have ever known".

The result was announced at 12.20pm today and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to the Cabinet Office demanding meaningful negotiations on the union’s claims.

Unless substantial proposals are received from the government, the union’s elected National Executive Committee will next Friday, 18 November, agree a programme of sustained industrial action.

PCS has been calling for a 10% pay rise this year and a living wage of at least £15 an hour for all civil servants, as well an immediate 2% cut in pension contributions that civil servants have overpaid since 2018, and no further cuts to redundancy payments. 

Mark Serwotka, PCS 's general secretary, said: "The government must look at the huge vote for strike action across swathes of the civil service and realise it can no longer treat its workers with contempt.

“Our members have spoken and if the government fails to listen to them, we’ll have no option than to launch a prolonged programme of industrial action reaching into every corner of public life.

“Civil servants have willingly and diligently played a vital role in keeping the country running during the pandemic but enough is enough.

“The stress of working in the civil service, under the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, job cuts and office closures means they’ve reached the end of their tethers.

“We are calling on the government to respond positively to our members’ demands. They have to give our members a 10% pay rise, job security, pensions justice and protected redundancy terms."

Between 26 September and 7 November, more than 150,000 PCS members, who work in 214 different government departments and agencies, were asked to vote on taking industrial action over pay, pensions, job cuts and redundancy terms.

PCS delegates had backed plans for a ballot at the union’s annual conference in May, shortly after the government announced proposals to cut 91,000 civil service jobs. That headcount reduction plan has now been scrapped but many concerns remain among civil servants, including a reported 2% pay cap next year.

Most departments offered staff an average pay increase of 2-3% this year, a pay award the Cabinet Office said aimed to "strike a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of public sector workers, whilst delivering value for the taxpayer, not increasing the country’s debt further and being careful not to drive even higher prices in the future".

As well as pay, redundancy and pension demands, the union is also seeking a job-security agreement and “resources desperately needed to deliver public services”. The government is expected to significantly limit department's spending capacities in next week's Autumn Statement, with soaring  inflation having already slashed budgets in real-terms.

Civil servants have been forced to use food banks, skip meals, take out loans to afford essentials and take on addition jobs amid the cost-of-living-crisis which is impacting people across the country. Workers in many other industries, such as barristers, train staff and Royal Mail workers, have already gone on strike this year, while nurses are the latest to announce industrial action.

Fellow civil service unions FDA and Prospect are also considering formally balloting their members to take strike action. Prospect began an online indicative ballot of members this week, while the FDA warned in August that its members are close to considering taking industrial action over the government’s pay offer.

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