Government told to expect ‘biggest strike of the year’ as civil service ballot opens today

PCS trade union to ballot 150,000 civil servants over next five weeks and expects “overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote”

Credit: Yui Mok/PA

By Tamsin Rutter

18 Jun 2018

The Public and Commercial Services union has told government to expect “the biggest strike of the year” if it fails to offer a meaningful pay rise to civil servants this summer.

The trade union today launched its strike ballot on pay, which will run until 23 July.

Around 150,000 workers across the civil service and related areas will be balloted, and PCS said it expects “an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote for action”.


Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said he was “absolutely disgusted at the government for misleading the union”, after recent talks with the Cabinet Office revealed that government was still using the 2015 spending review to budget pay.

The 2015 review reiterated a commitment to the 1% cap on annual public sector pay rises that had been in place since 2012, following a two-year pay freeze. The cap was not due to be lifted until 2019.

The Treasury last year signalled a willingness to be flexible on pay in exchange for improvements in productivity, but has since told union negotiators that no new money will be made available for pay increases in government departments.

PCS warned that under the current system staff will only be entitled to a 1% rise, unless savings are found within departmental budgets “through job cuts and other ‘efficiencies’”.

Serwotka said: “Our members have been singled out amongst public sector workers. The de-facto 1% pay cap remains in place and we are absolutely disgusted at the government for misleading the union.

“Ministers gave us assurances earlier in the year that hard working government staff would be rewarded for all the issues they have had to face up to.

“Instead they are being offered a paltry 1% pay increase when they have had to cope with job cuts, Brexit and issues as difficult as Universal Credit and the Windrush scandal.”

He added that the union’s preference was to negotiate a settlement, but that the government “should be in no doubt that if they fail to deliver the goods, we will deliver the biggest strike of the year in summer”.  

If civil servants vote to take part in industrial action over the summer it could be the biggest walk-out of PCS members since two million public sector workers went on strike in 2011 over reforms to pension schemes, the union said.

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