Civil service pay has stagnated over the last decade and there is chronic low pay in the administrative grades, yet PCS has failed in two successive ballots to deliver a 50%+ turnout and thus a legal mandate for industrial action. This is fundamentally an organising issue, but we also need to be clear what we want in relation to pay and other industrial demands. We stand for:
1.1 National equal pay
Differences in pay for civil servants of the same grade in the same location can vary by thousands of pounds – a lifetime inequality reflected in pension, pension lump sum, and severance entitlements. Those on the same grade should be on the same pay, regardless of department. This should mean an uplift to the best wage going as the rate for the job, not a race to the bottom.
1.2 Pay claims with the living wage as the starting point
The 2019 pay claim of 10% underpinned by £10 per hour or £2,500 (whichever is greater) would have put AAs and AOs on the minimum within HMRC at the same salary. Whilst an improvement in both cases on existing pay rates, this is still not ideal. The union’s pay claims should start from a minimum of our living wage rate (currently £10/hr nationally or £11.55 in London) as the pay rate for the AA grade and work upwards from there.
1.3 A shorter working week
PCS Conference passed a policy to campaign for a 28-hour working week. This is not only achievable but necessary – to tackle the burgeoning mental health crisis in the civil service, to increase work life balance, to offset the threat to jobs from digitalisation, and for the environment. The union has to take this policy seriously, organising around the issue and agitating amongst the membership to win the argument as a first step towards winning the fight.
1.4 Fair pensions for all
The union’s campaign over pensions was all but abandoned back in 2012 after the coordinated public sector one day strikes failed to yield results. Now that we know our pensions have been devalued and the government is refusing to correct that, the time is right to relaunch a pension campaign. This must focus not just on correcting the current valuation issue but putting forward the case for comprehensive pension reform which restores retirement security for members and brings about a pension equality not predicated on a race to the bottom.
1.5 No cuts to the CSCS
The government is once more on the verge of pushing through swingeing cuts to the CSCS, after its defeat in the courts over the 2016 changes to the scheme. This time, it was forced to engage in consultation but refused to seriously address PCS’s alternative proposals which would have made savings whilst moving redundancy money towards the low paid members who would most need it and addressing age discrimination in the present system. The union should publish these proposals to challenge Tory propaganda about the changes as the opening salvo of a renewed campaign.
1.6 Best practice terms and conditions
Across the civil service there a wide array of variations in terms and conditions, creating a multi-tier workforce whereby some members are treated better than others simply by virtue of where and when they joined. The employer uses this to try and divide workers and will utilise resentment towards those with better conditions to drive a wedge between us as it pursues a race to the bottom.
Countering that shouldn’t simply mean resisting detrimental changes, though this is vital. The union must also establish a comprehensive list of “best practice” in terms and conditions across the civil service and use this as the basis of our bargaining agenda when we talk to the employer.
1.7 Taking on outsourcing across the Civil Service
Outsourcing is chronic across the government estate. Most often, this serves as a convenient way for the employer to avoid the questions of union recognition, decent pay and decent conditions with whole groups of workers, whilst also funnelling public money into private sector profits.
PCS has now committed to developing a strategy on organising outsourced workers across the piece. We need to ensure that happens, and that there is a coordinated effort throughout the union to recruit and organise these workers, and to agitate for and link up disputes on pay, conditions and bringing the work back in house. This should be done in a systematic way, with the resource made available to support branches and proactive coordination from the centre.
1.8 A national fight against office closures and compulsory redundancies
HMRC and the DWP are currently engaged in the largest and most ambitious office closures in the history of the civil service. This fits into the wider Government “hub” strategy, which is estimated to effect 200,000 civil servants. Compulsory redundancies are now a continuing, looming threat. The union needs to tackle office closures and compulsory redundancies head on, by building for a serious, coordinated and sustained industrial response.