The union wrote to the Cabinet Office and civil service employers before Christmas asking for talks on the key issues affecting the lives of civil servants and the services they are able to provide to the public.
After hearing that the head of the civil service Bob Kerslake has refused to engage on any of these issues, the union’s National Executive Committee agreed to move to an industrial action ballot starting on Friday 8 February and closing on Monday 4 March.
If the government continues to refuse to negotiate the union will make plans for a series of strikes over a period of time, including full and half-days, and shorter walkouts. It is also writing to other unions to seek discussions about the possibility of co-ordinated or supportive action.
The announcement comes as ministers turn their fire on the civil service in what the union says is a clear attempt to try to deflect attention from the fact that austerity isn’t working and that political decisions are causing serious damage to our economy.
Because of massive job cuts civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the public services that we all rely on. But instead of rewarding them, the government is cutting their pay, raiding their pensions and trying to rip up their contracts by cutting terms and conditions.
A plan announced in the autumn to review all civil service working conditions could lead to longer working hours and fewer family-friendly policies. The four-year pay freeze and cap, and increased pension contributions, would cut pay by 16% on average by 2014.
There is an alternative
The union said more than two years ago that austerity wouldn’t work, and that we needed an alternative of investment in public spending and a rigorous clampdown on tax avoidance and evasion. The flatlining of our economy since 2010, and the threat of a triple dip recession, shows the union was right then and is right now to continue to campaign for this alternative.
The union has called for a minimum pay rise of 5% or £1,200 for all civil servants this year, for the living wage to underpin all government contracts, for no cuts to terms and conditions, and no increase in pension contributions, no increase in the pension age and no reduction in pension benefits.
This new national ballot replaces the one the union held in June 2011 which led to strikes over pensions in that year and 2012.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the services that we all rely on, yet their lives are being made more difficult by cuts to their jobs, pay, pensions and now even their basic working conditions.
“Instead of rewarding them for their effort and commitment, this Tory-led government is pressing ahead with cuts that are wrecking our economy, while shamefully trying to deflect the blame for failure onto civil servants.
“We are not prepared to accept these cuts and, if the government continues to refuse to talk to us to try to reach a settlement, we will be drawing up plans for a series of walkouts in the coming months.”