Pay cap: PCS to ballot civil service members on support for industrial action

Union says first step towards possible strike action has been taken due to dismissive response to concerns from Cabinet Office minister Damian Green

PCS will ballot its members on further industrial action over the pay cap. Credit: Yui Mok/PA?

By Richard Johnstone

06 Sep 2017

The Public and Commercial Services union is to ballot its members across the civil service to assess support for possible industrial action across Whitehall in protest at the ongoing 1% public sector pay cap.

The union announced today the UK-wide ballot would ask members about their willingness to take part in industrial action in response to the cap, which has limited civil service pay increases to 1% since 2012. This had followed a two-year freeze.

PCS members will also be asked to support a union call to government to end the pay cap and for departments to be given a funding boost to ensure the increases do not further stretch Whitehall budgets.


The ballot comes after briefings this week indicated that prime minister Theresa May is set to lift the 1% restriction later this month.

However, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that this showed “escalating chaos” in government over the cap, as they follow other briefings after the June election which suggested that the limit was likely to end but were then denied by ministers.

It was therefore now “only right that our members have their say”, said Serwotka.

The national ballot would be a chance for members of the union, which is the biggest in the civil service, to “send the government a clear message over pay”, he added.

“Civil servants keep this country running, yet they have seen cuts to their pay, pensions and redundancy terms as a result of the government’s austerity policies.

“We are clear, pay misery for public servants must end and the government must restore public sector pay to levels that allow working people to live with the dignity and security they deserve.”

The union said it had decided to hold the ballot after what it called a “complacent and dismissive response” from Cabinet Office minister Damian Green to concerns over the cap. According to the union, Green, who is the minister responsible for the civil service, said in correspondence that “the civil service offers an exceptional package of benefits... which are amongst the best available” and added that there is a “trade-off” between pay and jobs.

The union confirmed to CSW that the ballot would ask members two questions. The first would ask whether they agree that the pay cap should be scrapped, and funds made available to provide an above-inflation pay rise, while the second would ask whether they would be prepared to take part in industrial action if the government refuses to scrap the cap.

The union will recommend that members vote ‘yes’ in response to both questions, but it will be made clear that any move to take industrial action would require a further statutory ballot, a spokesperson said.

The ballot is UK-wide, but comes after the Scottish Government confirmed plans to end the limit from April.

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