Civil service union PCS has accused the Department for Work and Pensions of “failing to offer any meaningful support” to civil servants struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis.
The union met with senior DWP officials to discuss the difficulties civil servants are facing after publishing a dossier with "damning" testimonies from around 150 members who work in the department.
Officials described having to go without showers, heating, food and other basics, as they cope with soaring inflation and “paltry” pay rises; and relying on parents, pay day loans and food banks to stay afloat.
PCS requested a meeting with work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith and permanent secretary Peter Schofield to demand that the DWP reopen pay negotiations. But the union said neither were prepared to meet to discuss this.
Instead, PCS said it met with a group of managers who “have no authority to make any real decisions about pay”.
These senior civil servants acknowledged that the poverty levels members are facing would make it difficult for them to do their jobs and commited to further discussions but were unable to offer any measures that would genuinely help officials, the union said.
One in 12 civil servants are using foodbanks, according to a survey snapshot PCS released in August.
“It is disappointing that the DWP is unable to offer any meaningful support for hard pressed members," PCS's DWP group president Martin Cavanagh said.
“The only realistic way of changing the mind of the department and the government is for us to get a massive turnout in the national ballot with an overwhelming mandate for strike action. We will however continue to meet with management from the DWP to ensure they hear the demands of DWP members.”
PCS members last week began voting in a nationwide ballot on strike action over pay, pensions, job cuts and redundancy terms.
The ballot will end on 7 November, with the result to be announced by the union’s national executive committee three days later.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We recognise these are anxious times which is why we’ve brought forward a huge package of support for families through our Energy Price Guarantee and other measures.
“We are focused on delivering growth and cutting the tax burden to provide quality public services for people who are struggling.”
The department said this year’s pay award was set at the highest level permitted within the civil service pay guidance, which allowed for a maximum 3% average pay rise, to recognise "the vital importance of public sector workers while providing value for the taxpayer”.