Pay campaign consultation document


The national executive committee has agreed that there should be a major consultation exercise with branches, groups, equality forums and members on our civil service pay strategy for 2019. The NEC is proposing that our demands on pay in 2019 consist of:

  1. A cost of living pay increase for all workers in the civil service of 8-10% (figure to be finalised following the consultation) with a significant underpin.
  2. A Living Wage of £10 per hour nationally and £11.55 in London
  3. National bargaining on pay across the UK civil service.
  4. Equal pay and coherence of pay and terms and conditions across those areas.

If we do not receive a positive response from the Cabinet Office on our pay demands, the NEC proposes that we hold an industrial action ballot next March on the following basis:

  1. The scope of the ballot is the UK Civil Service (exact coverage to be finalised following the consultation).
  2. That bargaining areas with members outside that definition are consulted about whether they would wish to pursue separate disputes on the same campaign timetable.
  3. That the ballot will run from the beginning of March to finish by 10 April 2019 (start date to be finalised following the consultation).

Industrial action, should it become necessary, would consist of national, all-member action and targeted action in areas in which we would have a disruptive impact on Civil Service management. Areas suitable for effective targeted industrial action will be identified before the start of the ballot.

A special NEC will take place in early February 2019 to consider the results of the consultation and take final decisions on the campaign.

Please read this consultation document and answer the questions at the end, sending your response by 25 January 2019 by email to, or in writing to: General Secretary, PCS, 160 Falcon Road, London SW11 2LN. You can also respond by filling in an online form on the PCS website.


Earlier this year PCS members in the civil service and related areas voted in a ballot on industrial action over pay – a remarkable 86% of those voting voted yes to strike action. Despite such an overwhelming result, the Tories’ anti-union laws meant that action could not be called as the turnout had not reached the 50% threshold imposed by the 2016 Trade Union Act.

Since then, members’ anger over the decline in the value of their pay, and their living standards, has not gone away. In fact the situation continues to impact daily on the lives of thousands of PCS members and their families.

Average civil service pay has fallen in value by more than £3,000, further and faster than anywhere else in the public sector.

Last year the government announced the end of the pay cap, and negotiators in local government and health sat down and agreed above-inflation pay increases. But in the civil service our court case has revealed that the most senior managers met in February, and agreed to continue the pay squeeze, and limit pay increases to 1-1.5%.

We cannot let this happen in 2019.


The claim

Cost of living

In 2018 the PCS pay claim was for 5%. Pay in the public sector had fallen behind inflation by 3-4%. Research commissioned by PCS in 2016 showed that during the period 2017-2015, civil service pay had fallen behind inflation (CPI) by 8-9%, 5% further than in the rest of the public sector. With the Treasury remit limiting increases to 1-1.5% in 2018, civil service pay will have fallen even further behind the rest of the public sector.

In 2018 unions in English local government and health negotiated agreements in excess of the 1% pay cap. In local government a 2 year pay deal is of between 15% and 4.3% for those on £16,000 – £25,000. In health pay will increase by 6.5% over 3 years. Consequently, these sectors will not be involved in pay campaigning in 2019.

There is already evidence, however, that unions in Scotland are developing pay claims which are significantly in excess of 5% for 2019. Scottish teacher unions have united around a 2019 pay claim of 10% badged around a campaign “Value Teachers, Value Education”.  They mobilised 30,000 teachers to protest in Glasgow on 27 October.

All three Scottish local government trade unions are claiming 6.5%. Should this be unsuccessful, then the unions will proceed to organising statutory industrial action ballots, possibly early in the New Year. 

There is a high chance of the teachers and local government unions coming together to co-ordinate action.

In Northern Ireland NIPSA have lodged a claim in September of 7% for its civil service members in NICS covering 2018-19. NIPSA argue their claim is “just and fair” representing a real terms loss over five years and they will not accept a 1% imposition.

Consequently, there is a strong argument that the 2019 pay claim for the UK civil service should make the case that the value of civil service pay by comparison with inflation and public sector pay should be restored and that account should be taken of the settlements reached last year in other parts of the public sector and the emerging picture in Scotland. Therefore, the 2019 pay claim should be significantly higher than 5%, in the region of 8-10% with a significant underpin for the lower paid.

Collective bargaining

The evidence unearthed during the course of the Judicial Review tells us that there is no collective bargaining machinery for pay in the Civil Service and its related areas and that any attempt to present the veneer of either national or delegated bargaining on pay is simply a pretence. 

In February 2018, while local government and health employers were negotiating a pay agreement, civil service employers met together in secret and agreed that the treasury pay remit should limit increases to 1-1.5% for 2019. This then formed the remit for pay bargaining in every devolved pay area. This is not a situation that any self-respecting trade union can countenance.

We have spent many years attempting to address these deficiencies in talks with the employer.  The election of a more favourably disposed Government aside, the evidence we are now armed with from the Judicial Review means that we will never have stronger grounds upon which to force the issue.  We must now do so. Consequently, a key demand for our pay campaign should be a return of national pay bargaining for the UK civil service.


In addition, in line with our equality objectives, we must seek to eradicate the inequities that exist within the current pay structures system by demanding coherence of pay and terms and conditions across those areas. Initial analysis of 2018 median pay shows concentrations of women in departments with lower median pay. Further research is needed, but the initial research suggests that at least in part the structures of delegated pay contribute to the gender pay gap.


Scope of the ballot

The NEC is proposing that the scope of the ballot is the UK civil service.  This would enable the campaign to be both for a significant pay increase and for national UK civil service wide bargaining.  Further work would need to be undertaken on who is specifically covered.  However, members in employers not included in this definition could choose to ballot members on the same timetable, and then take action within the same period, in support of their own employer specific dispute and pay claim.

The advantage of this approach is that it increases the likelihood of beating the 50% threshold by focusing on better organised areas, and maximises solidarity behind civil service wide issues. But it also gives freedom to groups outside the civil service to mirror the civil service pay campaign.


Type of ballot

For the scope of the ballot in 2019 one option is to run a disaggregated ballot where each employer is balloted separately. This means that employers which broke the 50% threshold would then be able to take industrial action. This approach was used by the UCU in their ballot on pensions. However, the rules of the university pension scheme are not devolved to employers, they are determined centrally. Therefore, even though the ballot was disaggregated, the issue could be negotiated centrally.

The delegated bargaining environment means that for civil service employers, pay is currently determined at departmental level under the scheme of delegation set out in the civil service management code. There is a danger if some civil service departments achieved the 50% threshold and not others, departments might try to settle disputes in those departments, rather than for the civil service as a whole. This would undermine any arguments for national pay bargaining and increase differentials between departments.  This approach would not therefore sustain a national campaign.

In addition, if we had a situation in the disaggregated scenario whereby groups were also adding their own specific demands around cuts, terms and conditions, the unifying theme of the national ballot would be broken, leaving the employer free to settle departmentally on specific demands in specific departments. The argument for a disaggregated ballot with group specific issues is therefore essentially an argument for separate group disputes rather than a national campaign on pay.

If the scope of the aggregate ballot is the UK civil service the campaign would be for both a significant pay increase and for national civil service wide bargaining.


Ballot timing

In 2018 the ballot ran for 5 weeks in June and July. Feedback from regional reps briefings indicated that for 2019 an early ballot, in March, would be better than balloting on the same timescale as in 2018. This would enable PCS to ballot in advance of the publication of the treasury pay remit.

To ensure that the last week of the ballot is not during school holidays, it will be important to close the ballot no later than Wednesday 10 April. A ballot period of 5 weeks is optimal, therefore the ballot should open around 4 March.


Beating the threshold

We are confident that we can beat the 50% threshold for turnout in a new ballot. Many lessons have been learned from the 2018 ballot. The key changes are:

  • We propose that the scope of the ballot this time is the core civil service where we are better organised and will be better placed to beat the 50% turnout requirement.
  • We will focus effort on larger workplaces with large potential turnouts in the ballot.
  • In December a major on-line and offline data collection process will take place online in the major civil service groups aimed at improving the data for workplace and grade, and collecting additional personal contact information.
  • There will be a major recruitment exercise in the largest departments, HMRC and DWP.
  • Phone banking is potentially a very effective organising tool for ballots: we aim to step this up and enable secure phone banking to take place in any location with a secure internet connection. It is also planned to start phone banking earlier in ballot period.


Type of industrial action

The regional reps briefing responses showed strong support in favour of targeted action as part of the campaign. Targeted action in support of a national claim has not been used within PCS for many years; groups of members who, if they take prolonged strike action, will have a disproportionate impact on important work, politically, or on the day to day running of important services.

For targeted action to be successful there needs to be a very clear understanding of the group of members involved, the density of membership, and the willingness of the members to take the required action, the effectiveness of them taking strike action, the duration of action necessary to have an impact, the likely employer response, and the cost of supporting the action for the necessary duration.

Therefore, if targeted action is to form part of our strike plan, then it is important that these questions are answered, so that we can explain the action we plan to take to members in advance of the ballot.

An initial consultation has indicated that there are a number of possible targets. We will now explore establish the viability of these targets.  We will go out to Groups and Branches to explore these targets in more depth, including discussions with PCS representatives in the identified areas about our organisational strength, the deliverability of any proposed action, the effect of the action and the costs involved.


Fighting fund

The NEC has agreed that £1m from the proceeds of the DWP check off court victory would be placed in the fighting fund to support targeted or extended strike action. In the context of a civil service pay campaign, substantially more than £1m could be required to fund sustained action. Feedback from the regional briefings suggests that a 50p rise in subscriptions on all members for the fighting fund was the most popular option. This would raise around £90,000 per month or £1.08m per year. The concept behind the fighting fund is that it should be used to support all disputes, rather than a specific campaign; therefore, the levy would be on all members not just those in the civil service pay dispute.



1 Do you agree with the NEC’s proposed pay claim?  If not, what changes would you like to see?



2 Do you agree with the NEC’s proposal that the scope of the ballot should be the UK Civil Service?  If not, what do you think the scope should be? 



3 Do you agree that the ballot should be aggregated (to enable a national campaign on pay) or disaggregated (to enable group/branch campaigns)?



4 Do you agree with the NEC’s proposed balloting timetable?  If not, what do you think the proposed timetable should be?



5 Do you agree the NEC’s proposed 50p addition on subscriptions to raise money for the Fighting Fund?  If not, what should the raise be, if any?



Please send your responses by 25 January 2019 by email to, or in writing to: General Secretary, PCS, 160 Falcon Road, London SW11 2LN. You can also respond by filling in an online form on the PCS website.


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