Some 150,000 civil servants could strike this summer after the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union voted to ballot its members on industrial action over pay.
PCS hopes the coming ballot will strengthen its position in negotiations with the government on lifting the 1% public sector pay cap for government workers.
The union made the decision to ballot members at its annual conference in Brighton last week.
Moving the motion, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said it was time for the PCS to take action without waiting for other public sector unions to join in.
“We have tried for years to persuade other unions to take action with us and we haven’t been successful,” he said.
“Do we stand and wait for them to change their minds or do we seize the moment now?”
The 1% cap has been in place since 2012, and it followed a two-year pay freeze across the public sector. The Treasury has indicated that the cap will be lifted and cap-busting rises have been offered to police officers (2%) and prison officers (1.7%).
NHS staff have been handed a 6.5% increase over three years, with additional funding, in return for improvements in productivity.
Civil servants working for the Scottish Government have been offered at least a 4% pay rise for the majority of staff—and 12% for some. Discussions on government pay between the Cabinet Office and trade unions in Westminster are ongoing.
PCS said a vote in favour could see 150,000 staff in the civil service and related areas walk out this summer, possibly for “sustained strike action”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members deserve a fair pay rise to make up for years of pay restraint. But we have been told there is only 1% in the budget for pay unlike other parts of the public sector. This is a disgraceful way for the government to treat its own workforce.
“Theresa May should be under no illusion. If her ministers do not fully fund a fair pay increase, we will be consulting our members on serious sustained strike action”.
The conference also overwhelmingly passed a motion saying the union should “be clear to members and employers that action will not be stayed for mere talks.”
Now the fight is on to win an emphatic yes vote in the strike ballot—and a turnout that beats the 50 percent Tory imposed threshold.