The Big PCS Walkout will send a clear message to the Government on budget day – Mark Serwotka, PCS


“The perseverance and strength of our members shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, not least the government who employs them and has overseen a catastrophic drop in their living standards since 2010.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary

By Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary

PCS members are gearing up for one of our biggest strikes in years. In what will be a stunning show of strength, on Budget Day in a fortnight over 130,000 members across 130 employers in the civil service will walk out over pay, pensions and job security. This is a signification escalation of action and shows that our campaign is getting stronger, and our members are more determined, by the day.

We’re dubbing the day The Big PCS Walkout and it will be another emphatic message to the government yet that our members aren’t going anywhere. In fact, since we first announced the walkout, we’ve added 33,000 more members to the national dispute. We re-balloted nine employers that fell just short of the turnout threshold last time around and all nine of them not only returned a huge yes vote, but every single one also smashed the 50% barrier.

If the government hoped they could stick their head in the sands and hope we’d go away, our sensational ballot results have shown they couldn’t be more wrong. Our original ballot last year delivered the largest yes vote and the biggest mandate for strike action in the union’s history. Our members have made it clear that they are resolute and will continue to take part in escalating strike action unless ministers put more money on the table to meet our demands.

Thousands of brave members have already gone on strike as part of our national campaign, in line with our strategy of sustained target action where we can exert maximum pressure on the employer, alongside all member action. The first wave of highly effective targeted action took place in Border Force, DVLA, DVSA, DWP and the Rural Payments Agency. Further action is already underway with more set to take place and this programme is proving to be working and proving to be effective. 

The perseverance and strength of our members shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, not least the government who employs them and has overseen a catastrophic drop in their living standards since 2010. They’re being attacked on every front in a relentless assault on their pay, overpayment of their pensions, threats to redundancy pay and massive job cuts.

To give an idea of how desperate things have become for our members, 40,000 civil servants are using foodbanks and 30,000 are skipping meals. In the DWP and HMRC, nearly 45,000 are paid below the National Minimum Wage and in April the government will be forced by law to increase it in line with the scheduled rise. I’ve spoken at numerous rallies and meetings in the past few months and reeled off these figures but they’re still as shocking as the first time I read them. It’s a simply grotesque situation and it has to change.

Central to our demands is an inflation-busting pay rise that not only shields members from the devastating cost of living crisis but compensates for the plummeting living standards. That’s why we’re asking for a 10% pay rise and a Living Wage of at least £15 per hour. We’ve couldn’t have been more explicit when we say that there will be no resolution to the current industrial action unless the government addresses this year’s pay crisis in negotiations.

To say that the negotiations so far have been disappointing is an understatement. The government has refused to put any more money on the table and is flat-out refusing to discuss last year’s pay settlement, choosing instead to focus on 2023-24. In one particularly farcical exchange, the Cabinet Office Minister in the negotiations didn’t even know that PCS members working in the civil service aren’t covered by a pay review body.

The government has repeatedly told us and the many other public sector unions taking action that pay rises are unaffordable. This is wholly untrue and should be rebutted by all those unions loudly and often. PCS-commissioned research shows that a pay rise inflation in line with inflation will not cost the £28 billion touted by the government but would in fact cost nearly a third of that amount, at £10 billion.

In a further blow to their flawed economic analysis, our research shows that an inflation-busting pay rise would pay for itself in a few years and save the government money. Unlike the super-rich, whose wealth has continued to soar, public sector workers spend their wages here in the UK. That’s why a pay rise would see billions of pounds returned to the Treasury through taxes. Billions more would be generated through improvements linked to health and education, and a boost to private sector supply chains.

The government’s own figures also who just how absurd the affordability argument is. It was announced last week that the government is forecast to borrow £30 billion less than planned and recorded a surprise surplus in the billions. It’s obvious that their ludicrous position will not hold for much longer. It’s nonsensical and it’s taking public sector workers for fools.

PCS members have clearly had enough of being treated so badly and the momentum for our campaign is continuing to build. Our union is growing at an impressive rate too and we’re close to hitting an incredible 200,000 members. Our historic big walkout will see over 1,000 picket lines across the country and thousands marching on Parliament. On every level, we’re making immense progress and we don’t plan on stopping there.

Featured image: The Durham HM Land Registry PCS picket line on March 1st, 2023. Photo credit: PCS Union/Twitter

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