Second civil service union votes to strike

Tens of thousands of departmental staff who are Prospect members will walk out on 15 March
Prospect members at the Environment Agency walked out earlier this month. Photo: Vuk Valcic/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

28 Feb 2023

Tens of thousands more civil servants have voted to strike over pay following a ballot of members of the professionals’ union Prospect. They will now join PCS colleagues in staging a one-day walkout next month.

Prospect members voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in the ballot, which also covered concerns over job security and redundancy terms.

Some 80% of voting members backed strikes, while 92% backed action short of a strike, on an overall turnout of 72%. Every single area balloted cleared the 50% legal threshold for taking action.

The union will join PCS in striking on budget day next month,  which is 15 March. They will begin action short of strike, including working to contracted hours and overtime bans, the next day.

Prospect represents tens of thousands of specialist, technical, professional, managerial and scientific staff in the civil service.

Members who have voted to strike include those in the Department for Work and Pensions; Department of Health and Social Care; Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities; Department for Education; and some Cabinet Office staff.

Civil servants in the recently chopped-up Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (now the Department for Business and Trade; Department for Science, Innovation and Technology; and Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) have also backed strikes.

Prospect members who work for the Environment Agency held strikes earlier this month.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said civil servants’ incomes have decline by up to 26% over the past 13 years, their work has been “taken for granted” and they have “had enough”.

“Poor pay and declining morale represent an existential threat to the civil service’s ability to function, and to our ability to regulate and deliver on the government’s priorities,” Clancy added.

“Bills are rocketing and pay is falling ever further behind the private sector leaving our members with no option but to take industrial action.

“We will continue our campaign until the government comes up with a meaningful offer. If it doesn’t do so soon, we may be left with no civil service to protect.”

Civil servants received an average pay rise of just 2-3% in 2022-23, amid soaring inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. Ministers have refused to renegotiate this offer and, in talks with unions, are only considering the pay package for next year.

Civil servants in all three major civil service unions – PCS, Prospect and the FDA – have now voted to strike over the pay row.

Tens of thousands of civil servants in PCS have already taken industrial action over the last two-and-a-half months, including a one-day, all-out strike earlier this month. FDA fast streamers are also now able to join in after backing strikes last month but have yet to announce any action.

Prospect said next month’s one-day strike, on the day of the Spring Budget, will be its largest industrial action in more than a decade.

PCS is holding another major strike on the same day for all 123 organisations which have backed strikes and passed the 50% threshold in November, as well nine new employers where members gave their go-ahead today. The union announced today that members in nine further organisations have backed strikes, including HM Revenue and Customs. PCS has also said it will reballot members in 186 organisations to extend the strikes beyond their current limit of May 6.

A government spokesperson said: "Industrial action should always be a last resort, and discussions continue with civil service unions.

"We are working constructively with unions and urge them to recognise what is reasonable and affordable, as the whole country faces these cost of living challenges."

Organisations backing strikes

The following organisations have voted to strike:

Animal and Plant Health Agency

British Library

British Museum

Cabinet Office (members working in United Kingdom Security Vetting)

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

College of Policing

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Department for Education

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities

Department for Work and Pensions

Department of Health and Social Care

Diamond Light Source

Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

Forestry Commission

Health and Safety Executive

Home Office

Intellectual Property Office

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

Maritime & Coastguard Agency

Met Office

Met Police (mostly in forensics)

Money and Pensions Service

Natural England

Office for National Statistics

Office of Rail and Road

Planning Inspectorate

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

The National Archives

Trinity House

UK Health Security Agency

UK Hydrographic Office

UK Research and Innovation

Valuation Office Agency

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