The civil service’s biggest union has confirmed new strike dates for members at the Department for Work and Pensions and National Highways, hours before members working at Border Force are due to begin a week of industrial action over pay.
PCS said members at DWP bases in Doncaster and Liverpool who have been striking since Monday this week would extend their action from January 3 to January 7. It added that the Doncaster dispute would also be expanded to cover all members at the closure-threatened Crossgate House. Currently only benefit-processing staff who are members of the union are on strike.
The union also said that, as of today, National Highways staff working from two bases in Surrey and one in Hampshire were commencing a four-day strike, following earlier action by colleagues in Yorkshire and Humberside, the north-west and the north-east.
From December 30, National Highways traffic officers in the West Midlands and the south-west are due to begin industrial action. On January 3 and January 4 all traffic officers who are PCS members are due to strike.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka acknowledged that the strikes were likely to inconvenience travellers over the festive period. But he insisted the protests were necessary.
“This dispute could be resolved today if the government puts more money on the table,” he said.
“Our members are telling us they have to cut back their spending at Christmas time because they are running out of money. They have been offered a below inflation pay award, at a time when inflation is higher than 10%.”
Elsewhere, PCS said it expected action being taken by members who work at the Rural Payments Agency to intensify from the beginning of January, when an additional 300 members at Workington and Newcastle join 120 colleagues at the agency who took strike action last week.
It also confirmed new strike dates for members at HM Courts and Tribunals Service who are in dispute over the controversial Common Platform case-management system. The action will see union members who are legal advisers and court associates strike at more than 80 magistrates and family courts in England and Wales on January 7 and January 14.
Prospect boss predicts “widespread industrial action” from professionals
Separately, the general secretary of the Prospect union – which represents scientists, engineers and other professionals in the civil service – has predicted that members will vote in favour of industrial action in support of a pay rise above the government’s 2% to 3% offer in a new year ballot.
Mike Clancy said the union’s recent indicative ballot on members’ appetite for strike action, which found 93% of respondents in favour, suggested that professionals were ready to join PCS colleagues to demonstrate their anger over pay.
“I expect we will see the most widespread industrial action by Prospect members in a decade,” Clancy said.
“As ever, this action comes as a last resort after intransigence by a government that simply does not get it.
“I have never seen the wider public so supportive of workers taking industrial action. We must leverage that support, and the pressure our action will exert, to get the deal that our members deserve, and which will tackle the recruitment and retention challenges pay levels and structures are causing in the public sector.”
Clancy said he believed 2023 would set the bar for the type of labour market public-sector workers would have for the next decade.
“Is it more deregulation and power in the hands of employers, or will we learn the pandemic lessons and create a labour market built on good work and worker voice?” he asked.
“Unions will need to not only use their traditional strengths and draw on core values, but innovate and think differently about how we ensure we are relevant and influential.”
Clancy said it was clear Prospect members had had enough of real-terms pay cuts and attempts to remove or dilute their terms and conditions at work.