20 January 2022

PCS pay claim in the Scottish sector and national ballot

It cannot be right that our members in the Scottish sector are struggling so bitterly, given everything that they have done to keep things afloat during the pandemic, and so we are balloting members from 14 February to 21 March.

The ballot is on on our national campaign to raise pay, pensions and living standards.

In December, the Scottish Government published its 2022/23 pay policy, which is a real-terms pay cut.

In summary, the policy this year offers guaranteed minimums which, in cash terms, are less than last year. These are: 

  • A £775 uplift for those earning under £25,000
  • A £700 uplift for those earning £25,000 - £40,000
  • A £500 uplift for those earning £40,000 and over.

Inflation in the UK is currently at its highest for 30 years and is forecast to continue to rise. That means as prices rise, our members have less salary to cover the bills and the basics. For years now, PCS members in the civil service ALPHA pension scheme have been overpaying into their pensions by 2% a year. When these things are combined, it means wages are falling fast against the cost of living. 

Broken promises 

Annually, ministers have promised our members that there will be a journey towards pay restoration, but this has never been seriously progressed and with soaring inflation, any of the “baby steps” taken have now been wiped out entirely with the rise in prices.

Shorter working week

Despite the positive talk of a shorter working week from the Scottish Government and the possibility for employers to reduce the working week in last years' pay policy, there has been incredibly limited movement on this. Pay policy for this year allows employers to reduce the working week as part of negotiations, but after the failures of last year, trust has been damaged and there are fears that a shorter working week could come with other unacceptable pre-conditions. 

The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has been keen to tell the civil service unions of the incredible contribution civil servants have made especially during the pandemic. But warm words are not enough. We need more from the Scottish government on pay and that's what our ballot intends to do. 

Our consultative ballot will ask members if they are prepared to take action over pay and pensions. This isn’t a ballot for strike action, but rather to gauge the strength of feeling amongst the membership that we need action on pay and pensions now.  

Throughout the civil service unions’ meetings with the cabinet secretary for finance, Kate Forbes, we have made our industrial priorities clear. These remain at the core of the PCS claim and are as follows:

  1. Inflation proofing pay - The latest figures have CPI sitting at 5.1% and RPI at 7.1%. These were the figures when this pay policy was published. Anything less than an inflationary rise represents a cut in living standards. 
  2. Pay restoration - Since 2018, when the 1% pay cap was lifted, both Derek MacKay, former cabinet secretary for finance and Kate Forbes, his successor, have committed towards a journey towards restoration. At the time, we said that, at that rate, most civil servants were unlikely to see pay restored to pre-austerity levels in their working lives. This is now almost a certainty.  
  3. Pay coherence – The demand for pay coherence is crucial now more than ever to ensure equality across civil service departments.
  4. A shorter working week – The PCS demand for the shorter working week has now become a major part of the post-pandemic economic discussion. The work PCS has done in Scottish Government with Autonomy, shows real practical options for reducing the working week to 28 hours without loss of pay. This is a viable option for employers.

In preparation for the ballot, we need members to: