In a historic vote PCS members have sent a resounding message to Theresa May and her government.
An unprecedented majority (99%) of our union’s public sector members voting in a national ballot want an end to the pay cap. With 80% prepared to take industrial action if the government refuses to listen, our message to the Prime Minister couldn’t be clearer. It tells her to scrap the pay cap and to fund a proper pay rise for all public sector workers – now!
Our ballot between 9 October and 6 November brought the highest turnout by far in the history of PCS. As a consultative ballot it is not covered by anti-union law. Even so, at 49% it is within touching distance of the government’s new arbitrary and unfair threshold, introduced under the Trade Union Act last year. Ahead of the Budget on 22 November, this resounding rejection of pay policy and willingness to take action by government workers is vitally timed.
But it is not just PCS members. Workers across all public services have witnessed the value of their incomes collapse. They have been forced to suffer years of falling living standards as a result of the government’s public sector pay cap. Civil servants pay has been cut by £3000 on average since the policy was introduced, and it is similar in health, local government and other parts of the public sector. Yet the government plans further years of real terms cuts in pay to come.
For years the government has refused to take action to end the pay cap, passing the buck instead to nominally independent pay review bodies (PRBs). But our members – along with 55% of the public sector – are not covered by a PRB. Whilst it is evident the government does not want to take action on public sector pay, we recognise they may be forced to make some concessions via the PRBs.
The government cannot be allowed to pick and choose which public sector workers it thinks it can ignore when it comes to pay. The results of our ballot make it absolutely clear that May and Hammond must listen to their own workforce and scrap the pay cap.
We have long been clear that we must guard against divide and rule tactics from the Tories. Yes nurses and teachers need a pay rise, but so do the cleaners and teaching assistants that keep our schools and hospitals running. So do Jobcentre workers, our border staff and the HMRC workers who collect the tax that pays for the public services we all rely on.
It is vital we build on this opportunity and unite millions of trade union members and public sector workers together. We will reach out to other public sector unions and develop a coordinated plan for joint action in the New Year.
Our members keep this country running. Yet by cutting living standards year on year since 2010, the government has shown the contempt with which it treats its own workforce. Our members want action from the government, and we are seeking urgent meetings off the back of this ballot to agree an end the pay cap and to give all public sector workers an above inflation pay rise, with protections for existing budgets.
Our ballot result is a damning indictment of government pay policy. If the government continues to refuse to listen and refuses to end the pay cap, our members have made it absolutely clear that they are willing to take industrial action to end a pay policy opposed by the majority of the public. Theresa May and Philip Hammond have a clear choice – they can listen to their own staff and end the pay cap or ignore them at their peril.
I am proud of our union, and of our members’ for sending an unequivocal message to the government; civil and public servants deserve and need a pay rise and we are willing to take industrial action if necessary to end the pay cap.