Just four major departments meet threshold for strike action in PCS pay ballot

Departments which failed to meet threshold include Cabinet Office, DWP, HMRC and Treasury
PCS picket line in December 2022. Photo: PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

16 May 2024

Just a handful of major departments have met the turnout threshold required to take strike action in a ballot held by civil service union PCS.

Some 83.7% of those who filled in the ballot voted in favour of strike action, but the required 50% turnout was only met in 62 of the 171 organisations balloted.

The four main departments where officials both backed strike action and hit the 50% legal voting threshold are: the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology; and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Other government organsations which hit the threshold and backed action include: the Government Legal Department; the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency; HM Land Registry; Natural England; the Information Commissioner’s Office; the Rural Payments Agency; National Archives; and the Marine Management Organisation.

PCS launched the ballot, which ran from March 18 to May 13, after saying the government had failed to meet its demands over pay, pensions justice and job protection. Its demands include ⁠an inflation-proof pay rise plus pay restoration; ⁠pay equality across departments; a living wage of £15 per hour; and a significantly shorter working week on the same pay.

In most organisations, a majority of PCS members voted "yes" to strike action. But in many of these votes, not enough ballots were submitted to meet the legal threshold. PCS said the number of people who will be able to strike has been “severely limited by the Tories’ anti-union laws”.

The union said the turnout figures in areas that were below the 50% needed for action "still place us in a strong position for negotiating with the government in those specific areas and more generally across the civil service".

Departments that failed to get the necessary turnout include the Cabinet Office, Treasury, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions, which has PCS’s biggest membership base, with more than 44,000 officials entitled to vote. 

Just 33% of eligible members voted in the Treasury ballot. At HMRC, turnout was was 43%, DWP’s was 44%, and the Cabinet Office’s was 45%. In all four, 83% or more of the voters backed strikes.

Of the departments that met the threshold, Defra and DLUHC had the biggest turnouts. Both managed to get 60% of their members to take part in the ballot, with 85% backing strike action at Defra and 83% supporting strikes at DLUHC. DESNZ achieved a 56% turnout, with 80% voting for walkouts, while DSIT had a 52% turnout, with 89% saying yes to strikes.

Some of the departments which missed the threshold had very high proportion of "yes" votes. At the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 93% backed strikes, but turnout was 45%; and at the Home Office, there was also a 45% turnout, of which 89% voted for strike action. 

The organisations which came closest to meeting the threshold include the Charity Commission and UK Space Agency, which both missed out by just one vote, with 88% voting "yes" in the former and 100% in the latter. Another to just miss out was the Office for National Statistics and UK Statistics Authority, whose 49% turnout was 11 votes short – with 84% of ballots backing strikes. ONS members separately backed industrial action recently over a 40% in-office mandate.

Some other organisations were very far away from meeting the threshold, including HM Prisons and Probation Service, where less than a quarter of members voted.

Members in the Welsh Government were also balloted, but only achieved a 40% turnout, with 67% voting for strikes. 

Other departments and agencies which had a "yes" vote of more than 50% but failed to get the necessary turnout include:

  • Department for Business and Trade – 46% turnout, 80% voted yes
  • Department for Education – 45% turnout, 82% voted yes
  • Department for Transport – 46% turnout, 86% voted yes
  • Department for Health and Social Care – 39% turnout, 84% voted yes
  • Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency – 40% turnout, 92% voted yes
  • Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – 35% turnout, 85% voted yes
  • HM Courts & Tribunals Service – 36% turnout, 81% voted yes

PCS held a series of strikes over pay in 2022 and 2023 after getting big turnouts in ballot votes which saw around 126 organisations meet the threshold, almost double the number who managed it this time around. The strikes came to an end in June 2023 after the government improved its initial 2023-24 pay offer, adding in a £1,500 one-off payment.

PCS said its national executive committee met yesterday to discuss the results and its annual delegate conference in Brighton next week will decide on the next steps for its campaign.

Here is the full list of departments where 50% of ballots were in favour of strike action and 50% of members voted

  • UK Supreme Court
  • OFWAT
  • Local Government Boundary Commission for England
  • North Sea Transition Authority
  • Electoral Commission
  • Ofgem
  • Wallace Collection
  • Qualifications Wales
  • Wales Office
  • Leasehold Advisory Service
  • Forestry Commission England
  • National Archives
  • Westminster Foundation for Democracy
  • Regulator of Social Housing
  • National Museums Liverpool
  • Wilton Park Executive Agency
  • Rural Payments Agency
  • Marine Management Organisation
  • Parole Board for England & Wales
  • British Museum
  • APHA Animal & Plant Health Agency
  • Judicial Appointments Commission
  • Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)
  • Historic England
  • The Pensions Regulator
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee
  • Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Gambling Commission
  • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
  • Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
  • Planning Inspectorate
  • UK Export Finance
  • Prisons & Probation Ombudsman
  • Senedd Commission
  • Office for Students (OfS)
  • Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
  • Sport England
  • Health & Safety Executive
  • Consumer Council for Water
  • RFCA North of England
  • Natural England
  • ACAS
  • Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
  • Youth Justice Board
  • Amgueddfa Cymru Museum Wales
  • Defence Science & Technology Laboratory
  • Care Quality Commission
  • British Library
  • HM Land Registry
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
  • UK Research & Innovation (UKRI)
  • Government Legal Department
  • Welsh Revenue Authority
  • Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
  • Disclosure and Barring Service
  • Active Travel England
  • Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority
  • Judicial College
  • Ofsted
  • Veterinary Medicines Directorate

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