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civil servants vote to walk out


In the face of firm resistance from the government, civil servants have voted for walkouts over pay. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will strike on 29 and 30 January. Their union believes that below-inflation pay offers can be improved.

Up to five departments could be affected, covering benefit offices, job centres, courts, immigration service and prisons. Each department had separate pay talks and ballots. But all were faced with hard line attitudes from management, which workers believe is dictated by government.

The union says there is a high proportion of low paid workers in these jobs, and they need more than the small rises offered. They believed that previous deals committed the employers to look positively at pay structures. The government have cracked down on any moves to shorten pay scales at a time when its finances are under pressure.

For example the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) imposed an offer worth 2.6% overall. The employer claims that many will get more than this. The union believes that is playing with figures and is concerned about the many who will get less. Other offers have been for lower amounts than that made by DWP.

Each group of workers will decide separately what action to take, but they hope to co-ordinate pressure on ministers. Management are making the most of low turnouts in the postal ballots. The union wants dialogue over long-term pay problems but is willing to take action if talks fail. The response of members to the initial strike call is likely to be crucial in determining the outcome of this pay campaign.