In an effort to equal wage increases for teaching and medical staff, civil service unions have started negotiations with the government about pay. After the government declared its readiness to engage in “meaningful” negotiations, two unions, Prospect and the FDA, made an announcement that they would cease strike action and balloting.
With more than 100,000 members, the largest civil service union, PCS, also declared it had accepted the invitation to the discussions and would be going.Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, which represents tens of thousands of technical and specialist staff such as government scientists, said his union was “entering these talks in good faith, hence our calling off the strike action due for 7 June”.
However, he added, “We will continue to maintain our action short of a strike and will review our position in light of the promised talks.” Throughout this dispute, we have consistently emphasized that our members should not receive inferior treatment compared to other workers in the public sector. We firmly believe that they deserve a pay deal that acknowledges the cost of living crisis that commenced last year.”
The FDA, which represents senior civil servants, said its executive voted on Friday to suspend the ballot for strikes. Dave Penman, its general secretary, said the union’s decision to ballot nationally for industrial action over pay had been the first in 40 years.
He stated, “The intention behind it was to send a clear message to the government that we had reached a point where we could no longer tolerate the disparity in how they valued the civil service compared to the rest of the public sector.” The invitation to talks indicates for the first time that they have heard this message.
“Industrial action is never an end in itself. It is a means to an end. We have simply asked for fair and respectful treatment of the civil service. The approach to pay in 2023 was one way to demonstrate this
Civil service unions actively participated in talks earlier in the spring. But in May, they were taken by surprise . This was when they received a pay offer that offered substantially less generosity compared to what other public sector workers received. The deal imposed an average pay rise of between 4.5% and 5%, . This is without any lump sum cost of living payment, and was presented as non-negotiable.
At the time, Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS, said it was an “insulting proposal” . In addition he said it would “serve only to anger PCS members, stiffen their resolve ahead of the forthcoming reballot and increase the likelihood of a new wave of sustained strike action”.
The PCS action has hit a range of public services in recent months, from border checks to driving tests. The first meeting between the unions and the Cabinet Office took place on Friday afternoon.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government has maintained an open dialogue with unions and as part of this ongoing engagement we have met with the respective unions to understand what role the Cabinet Office may play in resolving their concerns and avoiding industrial action wherever possible.”