‘Do the decent thing and pay up’: Strike ballot at National Highways over £1,500 payment

National Highways says it is “not part of the civil service” in response to union criticism
Photo: PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

08 Aug 2023

National Highways officials could strike after their employer refused to pay the government-recommended £1,500 cost-of-living payment.

Union PCS is balloting staff on industrial action in the arms-length body, which is responsible for England’s road network.

Recently, the Care Quality Commission and British Museum also said they would not make the payment, but changed their minds after PCS threatened strike action. 

So far, National Highways is refusing to budge but said it would “await” the ballot results.

A National Highways spokesperson said: “National Highways is an arm’s length body and not part of the civil service. We negotiate our pay awards locally with our recognised trade unions.

“We await the results of the strike action ballot.”

Serwotka said PCS’s members at National Highways are “furious at being excluded” from the cost-of-living-crisis payment.

“All other employers have paid up so far,  so we’d like to know why National Highways has decided, against government advice, that our hard-working members, who have kept the roads running during the summer, don’t deserve the money,” he added.

“Our members at National Highways have taken strike action before and they won’t shy away from taking action again if their bosses don’t do the decent thing and pay up.”

PCS accused the public body of picking and choosing when it follows the Cabinet Office remit guidance for civil servants.

Mark Serwotka, PCS’s general secretary, said: “Saying they’re not bound by the remit guidance is a bit of a moot point because Highways [previously] followed the remit guidance to implement a one-year pay freeze.

“They can’t continue to argue they’re not bound by the remit guidance but are minded to follow it. If they're not bound but minded to follow it,  then they should reflect that in following the lead from the DfT on the payment of the £1,500.”

National Highways officials received between 1.5% and 7.5% last year and will receive between 1.5% and 5.5% this year.

CSW  understands that National Highways has also argued that it does not need to include the £1,500 payment because it provided a deal last year that was stronger than the remit guidance, which offered civil servants an average of 2-3%.

This year, the government’s remit guidance asks departments, public bodies and arm’s length bodies to give delegated-grade officials an average 4.5-5% pay rise, plus a £1,500 cost-of-living bonus.

There are more than 650 PCS union members employed at 36 National Highways workplaces.

The union’s months of national strike action in 2022 and 2023 included targeted strikes at Department for Transport-owned National Highways in December, January and April.

National Highways’ PCS members were reballoted in Spring so they could continue to strike beyond their six months mandate from November but narrowly failed to get enough votes to continue industrial action as their 48.9% turnout fell seven votes short.

The latest National Highways strike ballot closes on August 31.

Nationally, PCS is balloting members on ending strike action, as long as employers have agreed to the £1,500 payment.


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