Members of the PCS civil service workers’ union in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have voted by 62 percent in favour of strike action over pay.
This is an excellent result. The union’s group executive is now meeting to decide on what action to call.
The fact that we got such a big vote for action is fantastic and a sign that our members are willing to fight Gordon Brown’s public sector pay.
Management insisted on a three-year offer. For those on the top of our pay scales this would mean a “rise” of 2 percent in the first year, nothing at all in the second year and just 1 percent in 2009.
Despite an overwhelming rejection of this deal, management have imposed it anyway.
Our ballot result sends a strong signal that we are not willing to have our views blatantly disregarded.
Leigh Lewis, the DWP permanent secretary, has responded to some of the members’ concerns. In one response he wrote, “I recognise how strongly you feel about this and why you feel let down.
“I think in your shoes… I might well feel the same.”
Indeed he might, but he doesn’t actually have to worry on his wages.
The national minimum wage is set at £5.52 an hour. Many PCS members earn only just above that. An even larger group of members don’t meet the European decency threshold of £7.40 an hour.
Many of our members have to claim tax credits just to make ends meet.
We’ve all got to pay our bills no matter what grade we are on.
This deal is discriminatory. Part of our pay will depend on how we are marked in our annual reports. Yet there is evidence that ethnic minority groups, part time workers and disabled people are being penalised by this process.
This deal also affects our pensions – which are based on the best of our final three years’ earnings. For those of us coming up to retirement, the imposition of this pay offer results in a cut in pensions as well.
On top of all this, job cuts are continuing and a growing number of members are threatened with compulsory redundancy.
No wonder so many workers in the DWP want to hit back.