Union sets out pay, pension and redundancy demands ahead of strike ballot

PCS writes to Alex Chisholm, saying the union will ballot members to take industrial action unless concerns are addressed
A PCS strike in 2021

By Tevye Markson

22 Aug 2022

A civil service union has said it will go ahead with a ballot on strike action if civil service chief executive Alex Chisholm does not meet its demands.

The Public and Commercial Services union, which is the largest of the civil service unions, has asked the government to address its concerns over pay, jobs, pensions and redundancy by 5pm on 2 September.

If it fails to do so, the union will go ahead with balloting its members on taking industrial action later that month, general secretary Mark Serwotka said.

In May, PCS delegates agreed to hold a national civil service strike ballot in September, confirming in July that this would take place from 26 September to 7 November.

Serwotka said civil servants “have found themselves under renewed attack by the government” in recent months, including plans published last week to slash redundancy terms.

PCS is seeking a 10% pay rise for staff; a living wage of at least £15 an hour; a 2% cut in pension contributions; no further cuts to redundancy terms; and job security.

Most civil servants have received a pay rise of 2% this year, while inflation has now reached 10.1% amid the cost-of-living crisis.

In response to Boris Johnson’s pledge in May to cut 20% of the civil service workforce, PCS has asked for a job security agreement for the civil service and its related areas “founded on an evidence-based assessment of resourcing needs”.

Additionally, PCS said the agreement should result in appropriate staffing levels and enable civil servants to avoid redundancy through hybrid working.

PCS said the government’s plans to slash 91,000 jobs across the civil service goes against “clear evidence that the service is currently under-resourced in many areas”.

The union has also asked for a guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies – after departments were told in June that they may be needed to hit reduce headcount.

The Treasury last week unveiled its latest proposals to reform the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, following reports the drive to reduce the headcount could cost billions of pounds in redundancy payments.

Serwotka last week called the proposals “the latest insult to hard-working PCS members who have kept the country running during especially difficult times”.

PCS is also looking for the government to redress its failure to apply the cost-control mechanism built into the Civil Service Pension Scheme under 2015 reforms, which is the root of its claim for a 2% cut in pension contributions backdated to 2018.

We have raised all of these matters with ministers and officials on numerous occasions both in meetings and in correspondence. We have not received any satisfactory assurances,” Serwotka said.

He added that PCS remains ready to engage in further talks to “explore whether agreement is possible and to seek to make progress where we can”.

The union chief has also written to heads of government departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies setting out the trade dispute terms.

A government spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to our engagement with staff and unions and will respond to PCS’s letter in due course."

Addressing the issue of pay the spokesperson added: "Public sector pay awards 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.

"The headline range for civil service pay awards is up to 3%. Departments are able to make average pay awards up to 2%, and also have additional flexibility to pay up to a further 1% where they can demonstrate targeting of the pay award to address specific priorities in their workforce and pay strategies.

"The government will continue to prioritise the lowest paid, and accepted the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations to increase the National Living Wage by 6.6% to £9.50 per hour from April 2022.

"Public sector pay awards 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."

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