Civil service unions used their first meeting with Edward Argar today to hammer home demands to improve pay, deal with pension issues and arrest planned mass job cuts.
The FDA, Prospect and PCS were due to meet the new paymaster general and minister for the Cabinet Office minister at around 1pm today at Argar's request.
Ahead of the meeting, PCS, the civil service's biggest union, said it would “make it clear that our demands on pay, pensions and jobs must be addressed urgently to deal with the cost-of-living crisis”.
"We'll be demanding Edward Argar instructs his officials to authorise negotiations ahead of the launch of our national strike ballot on Monday," the union said.
“So far ministers have not been listening, and PCS members in the civil service and related areas will be balloted for industrial action from 26 September."
In May, PCS delegates agreed to hold a national civil service strike ballot, confirming in July that this would take place from 26 September to 7 November.
PCS is asking for a 10% pay rise and a living wage of at least £15 an hour for all civil servants.
Most civil servants have received a pay rise of 2% this year, while inflation is at nearly 10% amid the cost-of-living crisis. Last month, the leaders of the FDA and Prospect asked the government to reopen negotiations over the current 2-3% pay guidance for officials in light of soaring inflation.
PCS also wants an immediate 2% cut in pension contributions that civil servants have overpaid since 2018, and no further cuts to redundancy payments. It is also seeking a job security agreement and “resources desperately needed to deliver public services” in response to former prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge in May to cut a fifth of the civil service workforce.
Prospect – which represents specialists in the civil service including engineers and scientists – said ahead of the meeting that pay, headcount, redundancy terms, pensions and general engagement with unions were all on its list of topics to discuss with the new minister for the Cabinet Office.
The FDA, which represents senior civil servants, pointed out that this was a rare occasion where a minister had initiated a meeting with unions rather than vice-versa.
This is the first meeting with ministers since March, PCS said.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to our engagement with unions and today's introductory meeting was an opportunity for the minister to listen to the views of union officials across a range of areas."