Driving examiners and rural payment officers across the UK will begin a month-long series of strikes on 13 December, as part of the first wave of industrial action by the PCS union over civil service pay and working conditions.
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency staff will kick off what PCS has promised will be the “hardest-hitting industrial action the government will have faced in decades” with a five-day strike in the agency’s Scotland and Northern Ireland offices. Rolling regional walkouts will continue up to 16 January, with officials in DVSA's northwest of England, Yorkshire and Humber and north Wales offices staging strikes between 19 and 24 December.
Staff at the Department for Transport agency’s West Midlands, eastern and East Midlands offices will strike between Christmas and New Year, and on 3 January, before strikes in the southeast, south Wales, London and southwest regions from 4 to 10 January. The final three days of action will happen at DVSA's Newcastle Lightbox and Newcastle Tyneside House sites.
As well as the regional action, traffic and vehicle examiners will down tools at all DVSA workplaces between 18 and 21 December.
Walkouts at three of the Rural Payments Agency’s offices will effectively run from 13 to 23 December, then from 3 to 13 January. The Workington, Newcastle and Caernarfon sites will see industrial action – but not the RPA’s headquarters in Reading, or its other major offices in Carlisle, Exeter or York.
The DVSA and the RPA – part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – are the first organisations to confirm strike dates in the first wave of PCS’s industrial action this winter. Strikes will also take place at the Home Office – including Border Force – this December.
Some 100,000 members of the PCS union voted in favour of strike action over pay, pensions and redundancy reforms. Union members backed strikes – and hit the crucial 50% turnout threshold required for action – at 126 civil service organisations in PCS’s autumn ballot.
Civil servants numbering in the “single figures of thousands" – of a potential 30,000 across the eligible organisations – will take part in the first wave of strikes, PCS said earlier this month.
Announcing the first departments to be affected, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said earlier this month that the union had “made it clear to the Cabinet Office that we are available for talks throughout this period”.
The Cabinet Office has said it it is undertaking preparations to “minimise” the impact of civil service strikes,with ministers “personally overseeing and coordinating the process".
In an announcement today, Serwotka said: “This is the first wave of the hardest-hitting industrial action the government will have faced in decades and will cause a massive amount of disruption.
“The government, which has spent years turning a blind eye to our pay demands, will no longer be able to ignore us,” he said.
“Our members are proud of their work, so it’s not easy for them to take action they know will affect the very people they came into the job to serve.
“But the government has given them no option. Their pay has fallen far below inflation and many of our members – the government’s own workforce – are forced to use foodbanks because they can’t afford to eat.”
There have been reports of civil servants at a number of government departments using foodbanks – including at the Department for Work and Pensions, where PCS has said it will announce strike action in the coming weeks.
Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan said in July some staff were seeking food parcels because they were "experiencing real hardship".