Civil Service head Sir Jeremy Heywood has blogged about why he thinks workers shouldn’t strike. But while we wouldn’t want to suggest that a man on £195,000 a year who claims £1563 a month for a chauffeur driven car is out of touch with the majority of his workforce, here is our counter view of why PCS members should strike tomorrow.
Pay falling far behind inflation
The latest figures on civil service pay will further anger PCS members striking for fair pay on Wednesday as they show median earnings are £2,000 below where they should be if pay had kept pace with inflation.
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday, show median civil service earnings have risen from £22,850 in March 2010 to £24,730, while inflation measures the Retail Price Index and Consumer Price Index have risen by 17% and 11.5% respectively.
Since 2010, average electricity bills have risen by 22% and average gas bills by 57%, according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change. If earnings had kept in line with prices (RPI) the median earnings for the civil service would be £26,734.
The ONS shows that most of the change in median earnings has been caused by “grade drift” rather than employees receiving a pay rise. Since 2010, median annual civil service earnings have risen by 8.3%.
For civil servants at the executive officer grade, which includes thousands of PCS members, the news is even starker as their median pay has only increased by 2.05% since 31 March, 2010.
The grim pay conditions for civil servants are further highlighted by the Croner annual survey of civil service rewards 2013-14, showing that civil service pay was 6.4% behind direct private sector comparators. Pension contributions have increased by an average of 3%, further cutting take home pay.
Across the civil service, pressure has increased on civil servants as job numbers have decreased by 16.6% (87,0540 jobs), however, this masks a significant increase in part-time working at the expense of full time work and 86,240 full-time jobs have been lost.
In members’ own words
In the words of some Bootle Taxes Branch members:
“I am supporting the strike as I’ve had enough of being one of the working poor who also feels insecurely employed due to the punitive performance management policy.”
– Margi Henderson
“I support the action because since 2008 the cost of living has gone up and up. We have not had a proper consolidated pay rise as we have been blamed by both this government and the last as being a drain on the country’s spending. People need to wake up and stop believing the press!”
– Charlie Wilson
“We need to show that we won’t accept the conditions being imposed on us. This can’t go on. We need to stand together and say it ends now. We need fair pay, and we need the staff to do the job properly.”
– Helen Sheridan
“We’re under attack from every angle: pay, pensions, jobs, conditions. I’m not happy to just take it with a smile as the Tories insist, so the alternative is to fight.”
– Phil Dickens
But it’s not just Bootle members who are supporting the action. Kelly, from DWP Wirral said she’s taking action to oppose austerity measures which are “affecting the poor and disabled, people’s pensions and our future generation. We have to stand together as individualism does not change policy.”
Lorna explained the impact of the pay freeze/cut on her: “I’m striking because after 8 years being on the bottom of the pay scale and another 1% rise which is actually a pay cut, it’s not good enough.”
For Angela from DWP Wirral it’s vital to strike to send a message to the government “we will not pay for their mistakes”. She said: “Striking is a last resort for any public servant but the five-year pay cap has left people starving, unable to pay the rent. We need to send a clear and immediate message to this, and any successive government, that we will not pay for their mistakes, we are the backbone of this country, without us it comes to a standstill.”
Many PCS members are suffering as a result of real-terms pay cuts.
David, a HMRC Liverpool branch member, said: “I am sick and tired of hearing that we are all in it together. My household bills are increasing year on year but I look around and see large bonuses given out on top of large wages.
“Explain to me why I should not go on strike. Explain to me why the lowest paid in our country are feeling the majority of austerity pain. Explain to me why I am struggling, why I am worried and why during these austerity measures we are not shown the respect we deserve.
“When we ask to talk, your (the government’s) doors are closed and when we have to use strike action as a last resort we are then criticised. The reason I am striking is to help bang on those closed doors.”
Mike, from EHRC Manchester, said: “I’ll be on strike because as a public sector worker, my pay in real terms has been reduced by over 20%, which is having a huge impact on my family. I am sick and tired of working people paying for a deficit which was not caused by us.”
Steve from Lancashire said: “The media always blame the unions for strikes. It’s about time they realised that as members we don’t want to strike, cause disruption and hardship to others we serve. If the government, my boss, had not given me consecutive pay cuts I wouldn’t be on the picket line. I beg the government to listen to its workers and get back to the negotiating table.”
How you can get involved
There are a number of ways that you can show your support the strike action tomorrow:
- Join the picket line at your workplace
- Attend the strike rally in the Atlantic Tower at 11am
- Donate to the fighting fund
- Keep up to date with the campaign on our campaign page
- Tweet your reasons for striking to @pcsbootletaxes using the hashtags #15oct and #weallneedapayrise
- Not a member? Join PCS now!
Download our pre-strike newsletter, Liberator, as a PDF document here.