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PCS ballots civil servants on pay, pensions and working conditions

By Rebecca

On 16 January the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) NEC decided to ballot a quarter of a million civil and public servants for strike action over sustained government attacks. Increased pension contributions and four years of pay freezes and caps mean that civil servants will have seen their income cut by 16 per cent on average by 2014 – and now the government threatens to extend the working week and abolish family-friendly policies.

The union wrote to the head of the civil service, Bob Kerslake, to forewarn him that unless the government improved civil servants’ living standards and stopped attacking their working conditions, the union would ballot for industrial action. The NEC meeting was informed that Kerslake had refused to engage on any of the issues, so the leadership voted to move forward with the ballot.

Significantly, the union said: “We now need to consider PCS action on pay and terms and conditions in pursuit of specific PCS demands at the same time as pursuing joint action with other unions wherever possible.” This demonstrates a strategy change from past years where PCS has only struck when other unions have been willing to. PCS should now publically call on other union leaders, whose members are facing similar attacks, to launch their own ballots.

This move to action is taking place in the context of the Coalition’s massive attack on the union itself, as it tries to squash any opposition to the cuts. All civil service departments have been instructed to halve the time allowed for union reps’ facilities agreements, and even to consider making reps use their own annual leave to attend committee meetings and annual conferences. This attack on the ability of PCS to organise and defend its members should be an explicit part of the ballot and any subsequent industrial action.

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