The civil service’s largest union has signalled it intends to step up its campaign to end the public sector pay cap, with proposals for new protests and preparations for a statutory strike ballot.
PCS said its governing national executive had yesterday decided to intensify pressure on the Treasury to lift the limit on annual pay rises that has been in place since 2012, and which followed the ban on rises in the initial years of the coalition government.
The union’s announcement of a move to “battle footing” in the campaign, which with the backing of the TUC is seeking a 5% rise for public sector workers, came on the same day that chancellor Philip Hammond revealed the date of his 2018 Spring Statement as March 13.
Following its national executive meeting, PCS said the momentum of its pay campaign was building in the wake of the consultative ballot on industrial action it held in October and November, which it said had “provided a solid foundation” for future action, and it would now move from being "ballot-ready to strike-ready".
The ballot found close on 80% of members who voted signalling their support for strike action, based on a 49% turnout, which the union said was its highest-ever vote in favour of a walk-out. It also saw 99% of respondents calling for the pay cap to be scraped and for funds to be found to provide above-inflation pay rises.
In addition to sanctioning more protests, PCS said the national executive had called for detailed analysis of the consultative ballot to be used to “ensure that all workplaces are ballot-ready” for a statutory strike ballot. The Trade Union Act 2016 requires a majority turnout for all industrial action ballots.
Union general-secretary Mark Serwotka said Philip Hammond’s failure to address pay across the whole public sector in last month’s Autumn Budget had been disappointing, but insisted pressure would be maintained into 2018.
“The Tories’ attacks on our members’ pay over the last seven years have created a crisis in civil service pay that is leaving many of the government’s own workers struggling to get by,” he said.
“As a union and a labour movement we must take collective action to force this government to scrap the pay cap, invest in public services and fully fund above inflation pay rises.”
Earlier this week PCS members who work for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency staged strike action that forced the cancellation of new-style driving tests on the first two days they were introduced.
The union said more than 1,000 examiners had taken part in the action, which related to safety concerns over elements of the revised tests and terms and conditions changes in recently-introduced contracts.