Whitehall’s biggest union has urged permanent secretaries and other departmental leaders to lobby the Treasury in support of its call for a pay cap bursting increase for civil servants following agreement of a 6.5% deal for NHS staff.
PCS said that a time when health service staff were being offered a three-year deal and local government staff had been offered 4% over two years, the 1% cap on annual public sector pay rises also needed to end for civil servants.
The cap has been in place since 2012, and followed a two-year pay freeze for most public sector workers that was put in place in the early weeks of David Cameron’s coalition government. But while the end of the cap is becoming a reality for parts of the public sector, ministers have been tight-lipped on an across-the-board scrapping of the measure for department and agency staff.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that a meeting of public sector union leaders earlier this week had underscored that the Treasury’s approach to pay rises for some public servants was in “sharp contrast” to that taken to civil servants.
He said that PCS was still waiting for a response to its call for a 5% across-the-board increase, or £1,200 – if that amount was greater, and the introduction of a common pay and grading structure across the civil service. Conversely, offers have already been made to NHS staff are due to be balloted, while the local government unions are on the cusp of accepting their deal.
Serwotka said civil service leaders needed to exercise the same degree of support for their staff that NHS chiefs and council bosses had.
“If everyone else is getting pay offers, it’s about time the government realised they can’t treat their own workforce with contempt,” he said. “If other employers have made cases to the Treasury for extra funding, it’s time the civil service did that on behalf of hard-working civil servants.
“Let’s hope they talk, let’s hope they agree to our pay claim but if not, let’s be ready to campaign and to ballot to achieve pay justice this year.”
Serwotka said it had taken “many weeks and months of campaigning” to get the Cabinet Office to agree to the meeting – just before Easter – at which the pay demand was tabled. He said that a response was expected imminently.
“We’re hoping that response is positive and that we will have a series of national negotiations on the question of pay,” he said.
“But of course it may not be positive, so our job as a union now is to ensure that we do everything we can to be ready, ballot for industrial action if we have to, to put pressure on the government.”
An indicative ballot of PCS members conducted in the autumn found that almost 80% were prepared to take strike action over pay. In answer to the question: “Do you agree that the pay cap should be scrapped, and that funds should be made available to provide you with an above inflation pay rise?”, 98.9% answered “yes”.
The ballot had a turnout of 48.8%, which PCS said was the highest in its history and reflected votes from well over 75,000 members.