Socialist Worker

Civil service workers in the mood for a pay revolt

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2579

PCS union members in Croydon, south London, join a workplace protest against the pay cap

PCS union members in Croydon, south London, join a workplace protest against the pay cap (Pic: PCS)

Civil service workers have voted by over 79 percent to fight over pay. This result can be a step towards turning the union leaders’ rhetoric over low pay into a revolt that can win.

The consultative ballot by the PCS union asked members if they would strike to beat the 1 percent pay cap imposed on them since 2010.

The ballot was not a real strike ballot, but indicates the mood for action over pay among PCS members.

With a turnout of nearly 49 percent—fractionally under the government’s 50 percent threshold—the union can be confident about winning a future strike vote.

Activists’ determination to campaign as if it were a genuine strike ballot saw lunchtime protests, workplace meetings and mass leafleting sessions.

And the campaign delivered real results for the union. Some 1,600 people joined PCS last month to take part in the ballot.

Now PCS can build on the momentum that activists have built up during the campaign. A national strike ballot could deliver a strong result—and put PCS at the forefront of the pay revolt.


Meanwhile education unions including the NEU, NAHT and Ucac are calling for an immediate, fully?funded, 5 percent pay rise for all teachers.

After seven years of real terms pay cuts due to the government’s public sector pay policy, unions want the government to make a significant pay increase for all teachers and school leaders.

The unions note the view of the School Teachers’ Review Body “that uncompetitive teacher pay, in a strong labour market with increasing opportunities for graduates, makes it a difficult environment in which to recruit and retain high quality graduates as teachers”.

They said this “critical” situation “requires firm and decisive action” and “presents a substantial risk to the functioning of an effective education system”.

The unions want the government to restore teachers’ pay levels to at least the levels that existed before the start of pay restraint.

A 5 percent rise in 2018 would be a first step. The unions, in particular the NEU, will need to campaign, organise—and strike.

And it’s not just an issue for teachers and civil servants. Pay has been hammered across the public sector, and activists in every union should be pressuring their leaders to build action.

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