Ballot result: what next?

The national pay ballot is over – what happens in the coming weeks and months?

The pay campaign is certainly not over. Pay talks are continuing with employers, Cabinet Office talks are being sought centrally, and legal challenges are being pursued. Across the union we’re still fighting for the best outcome possible for members in 2018, while simultaneously lining up the next steps of our campaign.

Not reaching the 50% turnout threshold means we can’t take national cross civil-service action at this moment, Mark Serwotka told members in our post-ballot live Facebook broadcast, but the “injustice” over pay remained.

He added: “We don’t let this setback with our national vote make us give up. Our anger should be directed at Theresa May and the government. [She is] singling out her own workforce to be treated worse than everyone else.”

Colleagues will undoubtedly be asking you, ‘but what now’?

Here are the key points to know:

  • PCS has written to the Cabinet Office demanding urgent talks on pay. The ballot result shows the strength of feeling, with 85.6% of our members voting for strike action. So it’s important that we convey this message to the Cabinet Office and continue to seek meaningful talks at a national level.
  • PCS union reps have now entered the latter stages of negotiating pay deals in each delegated area. The union has offered its unequivocal support for members in any groups who wish to pursue a ballot for industrial action over their employer’s pay offer, where strength of feeling has already been demonstrated. Members in the MoJ are currently being balloted over their offer, with a recommendation to reject it. Read more on continuing the campaign at delegated level here
  • Two legal potential legal challenges are being pursued:
  1. PCS is going to the High Court to challenge the government on its failure to meaningfully consult with the unions over pay this year. Alongside fellow civil service unions Prospect and the FDA, we have launched joint legal proceedings seeking a judicial review over the 2018 civil service pay guidance. Read more
  2. PCS is seeking legal counsel’s opinion on whether there’s a basis for challenging the 2016 Trade Union Act, which introduced draconian new restrictions on unions. We’re exploring whether the combination of the 50% turnout ballot threshold and the requirement for postal ballots infringe the right to ‘freedom of association’. During the passing of the new law, the government agreed to a review of the use of electronic balloting in trade union ballots for industrial action, but has done nothing about it. Writing in the Morning Star, PCS national officer Lynn Henderson reiterated the union’s view that if online voting, and secure workplace balloting, had been available, the turnout would have been above 50%.
  • Our plans for a 2019 pay campaign are now under way. It’s crucial that we do this right away and do not wait for the outcome of the 2018 pay round or legal action. We must start strengthening our levels of union organisation on the ground, so that we are ready to smash the threshold next year. Read more here
    Key to this is for branches to identify more PCS Advocates, who can act as the foot soldiers in every workplace for getting the union message out. Ballot outcome analysis confirms that where we have the highest level of rep and Advocate activity, we achieve the highest turnouts. Short training modules are available to help build the confidence and knowledge of members interested in coming forward to help.
  • The union has been running some workshops with groups and hubs, to reflect on the ballot campaign and discuss how branches can be supported. They cover both the work that’s been done to strengthen the union, and where we have identified weaker areas we can now focus on. If you would like to hold a similar session, contact organising@pcs.org.uk for advice and materials.

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