Senior civil servants could join industrial action over pay, union warns

Threat comes as PCS leader says civil service strikes could last months
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By Tevye Markson

31 Aug 2022

The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, has warned that its members are close to considering taking industrial action over the government’s current pay offer.

Meanwhile, PCS, the civil service’s biggest union, has said it is preparing for strike action that could last for months.

Civil servants are being offered a 2-3% pay rise this year, but inflation has surged to 10.1% by the Consumer Prices Index measure, and 8.8% by CPIH, which reflects the cost of living for homeowners. Economic analysts have predicted CPI could go as high as 18% in early 2023.

“The government is just treating it like any other year,” FDA general secretary Dave Penman told the Times.

“They are not trying to make any attempt to address the huge disparity between their pay offers and the rate of inflation and, clearly, if that's the case and there’s such a big gap between the cost-of-living rise and what people are getting in their pay packets, then people will consider whether industrial action is necessary and appropriate.

“My expectation is we probably will find ourselves in a position where we’ll get members wanting to take action in a number of areas. There’s a lot of resentment built up.”

Penman said civil servants are “very reluctant to take strike action” because of the potential impact on public services, but “there comes a point in time when people are saying, we simply cannot afford to continue with this”.

“We know this is difficult for government. We know that there's not a magic money tree, that tough choices have to be made. But the government's not even attempting to resolve the difference,” he added.

Penman said the FDA has members who are in the fast stream who are skipping meals and are “terrified of being rotated to London because they simply will not be able to afford rent, heat and food”.

“These are quite often the people who are advising ministers, the people who are working in the private offices of ministers and they’re skipping meals. That's where we have got to in relation to the impact of cost of living.”

According to the government, there are "robust" systems in place to support fast streamers that have to move home or make significant additional travel to take up a post, including an offer of relocation support and reasonable adjustment arrangements

Last month, a PCS survey revealed that one in 12 civil servants are using foodbanks.

The FDA's warning comes as PCS suggested the strike action its members will shortly be balloted on could last for several months.

Back in May, PCS delegates agreed to hold a national civil service strike ballot this autumn, which will take place from 26 September to 7 November.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, the civil service’s biggest union, said: “The plans we will be laying will be for action that is not just about the days and weeks ahead: they will be for months ahead. And we recognise that this may well end up being quite a long, intense dispute.”

Serwotka said the PCS was prepared to provide financial support to strikers so action could continue for as long as possible.

PCS wrote to civil service chief executive officer Alex Chisholm earlier this month, saying the union would go ahead with its ballot on strike action if the government does not meet its demands, which include a 10% rise for 2022-23, by September 5.

Last week, Penman and Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy also wrote to Chisholm, calling on the government to reopen negotiations over the current 2-3% pay guidance for officials in light of soaring inflation.

A government spokesperson said: "Public sector pay awards strike a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of public sector workers, whilst delivering value for the taxpayer, not increasing the country’s debt further and being careful not to drive even higher prices in the future.”

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