25 January 2022

PCS members share their experience of cost-of-living crisis

Running out of money weeks before payday and struggling to pay bills and feed their families are some of the heart-rending experiences of the growing cost-of-living crisis PCS members have shared with us.

Tens of thousands of our members across the civil service and public sector are facing a bleak 2022, compounded by over a decade of pay freezes and below inflation rises, with:

  • Energy bills possibly rising by 50%
  • National Insurance contributions increasing by 1.25%
  • Rising food bills and inflation at a 30-year high
  • A cut to Universal Credit
  • Rail fares increasing by 3.8%
  • The ongoing public sector pensions robbery.

DWP member Rachel often has weeks where she wonders how she and her husband can afford to buy food and fears that the NI increase will leave them unable to pay their bills.

“For our family currently, we run out of money very easily, my money comes in and goes straight back out again, my partner’s money mostly comes in and out again, but then we have to budget for things like food shopping,” she said.

She has a clear message for the government: “Up our wages, sort out the pensions.”

Emma who works for the Ministry of Defence says she feels “stressed about the cost of living going up and having no wage rises in 2 years.”

She calls on the government to: “Give civil servants a decent wage rise in line with rising inflation.”

Young member Michael, who works for the Information Commissioner’s Office, says he typically runs out of money in the week of payday.

He says he is “terrified of what an increase in bills and food expenses means because I can’t reduce any other costs anywhere.

“I’ve already experienced a massive spike in bills for energy and have started reducing power use as much as I can, I turn off the microwave when it isn’t in use and never leave anything plugged in just in case it makes any difference,” he said. “I’ve reduced the amount I spend on food so that I only eat two meals a day. I’m very stressed about it constantly in all honesty, it’s caused arguments with friends and loved ones because my fuse is so short due to it.”

The government says it intends to “build back better” and create a high wage civil service. Even within the public sector our members have been the poor relations of pay policy. If the government is sincere in what it says, then action needs to replace rhetoric.

We have therefore lodged our pay claim for 2022calling for a 10% national rise to address the cost-of-living crisis, a living wage of £15 an hour for all public sector members and the return of national pay bargaining. We have called for negotiations to begin immediately.

If the government is not prepared to act to tackle the cost-of-living crisis for its own workers, then we must look at what action members are prepared to take. We are therefore running a national ballot for all our public sector members from 14 February to 21 March.

This is not a strike ballot. It will ask members what action they would be prepared to take. A statutory industrial action ballot might follow later.

In preparation for the ballot, we need members to:

The members’ names have been changed.