By a PCS member
The Civil Servants’ union PCS will hold a consultative ballot on pay and pensions between 14 February and 21 March.
The ballot will ask members whether they would be prepared to take industrial action to demand a pay increase that takes into account the rising cost of living and years of pay freezes and caps. The union is seeking a 10% rise, underpinned by a living wage of £15 per hour for the lowest paid.
The union is also demanding a 2% reduction in pension payments, citing clear evidence that members have been forced to overpay since 2019. The average member has lost £1,000 of earnings over this time, with no increase in the amount of pension they will receive in retirement. Outrageously, the government has refused to reduce pension contributions because they are using these to fund court-ordered remedies resulting from the discriminatory 2015 pension reforms.
Naturally PCS had hoped to be striking alongside local government workers, whose strike ballot has since failed to meet the 50% turnout threshold. PCS has also struggled to achieve a high enough turnout to legally call strike action and has opted to initially use a consultative ballot to raise awareness of the campaign, gauge the mood amongst the members and organise for a yes vote.
This will be a difficult task for reps and activists, with so many members now working from home. After years of defeats, some sectors of the union are poorly organised, without reps and activists to undertake this work and concerns that the union leadership’s reaction to pandemic working conditions has been ineffective. So much so that rank and file reps and activists in the DWP section of the union held an unofficial national meeting in January to place demands on the sectoral and national leaderships for action over Covid-19 measures, job security and working conditions. Though condemned by the union leadership, this sort of networking and organising between branches is necessary to demand effective leadership and organise to win the pay and pensions ballot. It’s vital that rank and file PCS members call similar meetings across the union to formulate demands, agree a campaigning strategy, and create a permanent network of rank and file militants.