PCS ballot for industrial action
Following the government’s refusal to allow HMRC and other departments to provide the necessary funding to even begin to address years of real-term pay cuts in the civil service, PCS is balloting members for industrial action.
The ballot opens on Monday 18 June and closes on Monday 23 July 2018. Under the new anti-union laws, more than 50% of members need to vote in the ballot for the union to be able to take action. That means that every member who doesn’t vote is effectively voting against action and against a fair pay rise.
The fact that the government demands a minimum 50% turnout for union ballots, when elections for councillors and even members of parliament have no such restrictions, is yet another example of the government’s obsession with attacking the organisations dedicated to defending and improving workers’ rights.
Our claim for a fully-funded 5% increase is a modest one, when you consider that after eight years of pay restraint, the value of civil service pay has been cut by nearly 10%.
Why you should vote for action
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about the vote for action:
“HMRC are looking at finding a way to improve our pay, including possible pay harmonisation. Why are we taking action?”
Whatever HMRC say they are trying to do to improve our pay, the fact is that the Treasury still won’t let them spend more than an extra 1% - and with the Consumer Price Index running at 2.2% and the Retail price Index running at 3.4%, that means yet another pay cut. Unless more money is made available, the only way HMRC will be able to pay its staff more than 1%, is if the department slashes its existing staffing costs - and that means cutting things like jobs and conditions of service.
“Striking never achieves anything.”
History says otherwise. As recently as the beginning of June, after taking strike action, PCS members in the arbitration and conciliation service, ACAS, won additional jobs, as well as security for staff currently in temporary positions. PCS has also won significant gains in the DWP and the National Gallery through strike action. During the ‘Olympics dispute’ in the Home Office, PCS won over a thousand additional jobs just by delivering a successful strike ballot result.
“Even if we go on strike now, what makes you think it will make a difference?”
A parliamentary question has confirmed that by April 2018, staffing in HMRC had fallen by 2,000 since the EU Referendum, meaning that the department are relying ever-increasingly on its current staff to fill in the gaps. HMRC are already being slated on a regular basis by the influential Public Accounts Committee, and the department is already dropping or pausing its transformation projects left, right and centre. Add to this the fact that ‘Brexit’, and the government’s inability to make a decision about handling the customs and excise implications, means that PCS members in HMRC can have an even greater influence.
“I can’t afford to go out on strike.”
The value of our pay has already plummeted by thousands of pounds since 2010. Given that the government is determined to continue to cut the value of our pay, by just waiting and hoping your financial situation will only get worse, so we need to force the government’s hand. And don’t forget that the union has a fighting fund and will look to provide financial assistance for members taking targeted and sustained strike action.
“We should be concentrating our energy on fighting the office closures.”
It’s not a case of ‘one thing or the other’. We need to fight for decent pay and for jobs. And if we, as the second largest group in PCS, deliver a big vote for action on pay, it’ll give members confidence to fight to defend their offices, and send the clearest signal to the department that we are ready to do so.
“What about the DWP? They are the biggest department and they already have a multi-year pay deal.”
The DWP are being balloted as well. Their deal did mean major improvements to their pay, but they were well behind many other departments to begin with; and in any case, there is a clause in their agreement that says that if they are significant changes in circumstances, talks with the department can be re-opened.
“The government has to balance the books. It can’t afford to increase our pay.”
‘Austerity’ is a political choice, not an economic necessity. The Scottish Government has already agreed to pay PCS members an increase averaging 5.8%, and up to 12.5% for the lowest paid. Despite the government pleading poverty, the UK is the sixth richest country in the world. And there is an alternative. Straight after the Second World War the national debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was nearly three times what it is today; and that debt was reduced not by cutting government spending but by investing in the structure of the country. And don’t forget, according to the Tax Justice Network, every year, well over £100bn in tax is avoided, evaded or simply not collected.
“It doesn’t make any difference whether I vote or not.”
It matters more than ever. Because of the 2016 change in the law, now every single member who doesn’t vote is treated as if they are voting against taking action, and so voting against a fair pay rise.