PCS seeks ‘immediate’ talks with Cabinet Office on 5% pay demand as cap-busting NHS deal looms

Union’s national executive calls for pan-Whitehall dialogue on ending pay cap with threat of national ballot on the strike action

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka Credit: PA

By Jim Dunton

09 Mar 2018

The civil service’s largest union has said it seeking talks with Cabinet Office minister David Lidington on its demand for a 5% pay rise for all departmental staff following eight years of restraint.

PCS said its executive had this week agreed to push for a national-level settlement to break the current 1% cap on annual rises, which has been in place since 2012 and which followed a two-year freeze.

The union said that deals with some civil servants – such as Department for Work and Pensions staff offered cap-busting rises in return for changes to working conditions – had been used to suggest the pay-freeze era had ended, but “rang hollow” in the face of a new analysis of departmental funding.

Its new drive comes against the backdrop of negotiations between the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Employers, which are understood to involve a cap-busting three-year pay deal for NHS staff that could be worth up to 6.5% according to some reports. NHS staff are not civil servants, but have also been subject to the public sector pay freeze, along with council workers and the emergency services.


PCS said that while ministers were trying hard to give the impression that the pay cap was a thing of the past, a new crunch of departmental funding compiled for the union by left-leaning think tank the Centre for Labour and Social Studies showed that ministries had not been allocated enough cash to offer inflationary rises to staff, necessitating a fully-funded national settlement.

The analysis, created in November last year but only published this week, indicates that departments including the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Ministry of Justice are not funded fully enough to deliver a 1% pay rise to staff in 2018-19, based on their current headcounts and Resource Departmental Expenditure Limits.

Titled Fudging the Funding on Pay, the document is based on spending plans in chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget and suggests that most departments of interest to PCS members will see a real-terms cut in RDEL, with only the Ministry of Defence bucking the trend before 2020.

It says that the data – which comes with its own caveats on accuracy – underscores that the government “is intent on continuing to hold down the pay of its own workforce” and was not giving departments leeway to agree rises with staff.

PCS said the report indicated that members could expect further cuts in jobs and expenditure, and that anecdotal evidence from senior union representatives suggested employers were already looking to sacrifice members’ hours and terms and conditions in return for any deals on pay.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said the combination of pay freeze followed by a cap on rises has resulted in a 20% real-terms pay cut for members in the years since 2010, which had “hammered” their personal finances while they kept the country going.

“We need to take our campaign to the next level now to force the government to act,” he said. “We should say to the government  –  it's not 200,000 PCS members you have a dispute with, its 2 million public sector workers as we all deserve a pay rise.”

PCS said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that the government had made no provision for an increase of more than 1% for its staff at a time when other parts of the public sector were in formal talks over pay, or had already received offers.

Earlier this week fellow civil service unions the FDA and Prospect reacted with anger to the news that MPs will receive a 1.8% pay rise from next month, based on the findings of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

They did not dispute the level of the raise, which follows a 1.4% increase last year and 1.3% the year before.

However they said MPs appeared to be benefiting from the kind of independent fair-pay assessment that was denied to the staff who delivered their will and that of the government. 

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