Officials in the civil service’s biggest union have started voting today on whether to take strike action over "the biggest cut in living standards civil servants have ever known".
More than 150,000 PCS members, who work in 214 different government departments and agencies, will be asked whether they want to strike over pay, pensions, job cuts and redundancy terms.
The ballot will last until 7 November, with the result expected to be announced at a meeting of the union’s national executive committee on 10 November.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The government has ignored our demands for a fair pay rise, so we have no choice other than to launch what is the most significant ballot for strike action in our history.”
Serwotka said he had “never seen such a shocking situation” in 41 years of working in and around the civil service.
The union chief launched the ballot at the Labour Party Conference on Monday. Serwotka highlighted concerns over planned job cuts, real-terms pay cuts amid soaring inflation and civil servants struggles to afford food.
One in 12 civil servants are using foodbanks, according to a survey by PCS released in August.
In May, PCS delegates at the union’s annual conference, backed plans for a ballot on taking industrial action shortly after the government announced proposals to cut 91,000 civil service jobs.
PCS is calling for a 10% pay rise and a living wage of at least £15 an hour for all civil servants, as well an immediate 2% cut in pension contributions that civil servants have overpaid since 2018, and no further cuts to redundancy payments.
The union is also seeking a job-security agreement and “resources desperately needed to deliver public services” in response to former prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge in May to cut a fifth of the civil service workforce.
Most departments offered their staff an average pay rise of between 2% and 3% this year, a pay award the Cabinet Office said aimed to"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".
Serwotka said he is “confident” that the union, which – along with the FDA and Prospect – met with new Cabinet Office minister Edward Argar last week, will “force the government to retreat” and give the civil servants the pay and working conditions they deserve.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We are fully committed to our engagement with staff and unions.
"Industrial action should always be a last resort and we are working to minimise any potential disruptions to ensure the civil service continues to deliver public services with value for money to the taxpayer."