The fight for decent public sector pay was delivered a heavy setback this week as the national executive of the PCS civil service workers’ union voted to accept a government agreement in its long-running dispute.
The agreement allows flexibility on pay by using “efficiency savings” in departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies to increase pay.
The biggest savings will come from job losses.
“Efficiency savings” will also have a knock-on effect on the quality of the public services we deliver, and job losses will increase the amount of work for those left.
There is no mechanism for savings in one department to be used for pay in other areas.
There are huge disparities in pay across the civil service, and the union has campaigned hard against these.
Accepting the deal will increase the fragmentation of the union.
The government is looking to privatise a number of civil service departments.
The government entered talks because of the pressure the union put on it through winning a national ballot for strike action.
Now, without a live ballot for action, there will be little pressure on the government to improve workers’ pay.
The union made a mistake in calling off the strikes set for 10 November and industrial action that was set to follow.
Socialist Worker supporters at the executive meeting voted against the agreement and called for strikes to win better pay.
But the fact that the PCS would have been the only union taking strike action over public sector pay clearly influenced the leadership’s decision to accept the agreement. Activists must continue to argue that workers shouldn’t pay for the crisis.
Sue Bond is the vice-president of the PCS. Andy Reid and Paul Williams are members of the PCS national executive. They write in a personal capacity