Two trade unions signal potential breakthrough in dispute with government

Two civil service trade unions have heralded a potential breakthrough in their pay disputes with the government, with one organisation calling off a planned walkout and the second halting a ballot for strike action.

Prospect, which represents tens of thousands of civil servants, including members in technical, managerial and scientific roles, has halted a strike pencilled in for next month in its dispute over pay and conditions.

FDA, which represents senior civil servants, has suspended a ballot of its members that was due to start next Tuesday.

Both unions reported that the government had extended new invitations for talks in separate announcements on Friday.

A third union representing civil servants, the Public and Commercial Services Union, told the Financial Times it was also “hoping to have meaningful talks next week” with the government.

PCS staged its third national walkout in April over pay, pensions and jobs. It has recently renewed its six-month mandate for further action but does not have any nationwide strikes planned.

On Friday, however, the union announced strike dates for driver and vehicle licensing agency workers in Swansea, involving 15 consecutive days of industrial action starting on June 11.

It comes after unions expressed anger when previous talks resulted in an average pay offer of about 4.5 per cent, substantially lower than for other public sector workers. The UK has faced six months of widespread strikes as workers objected to real-terms pay cuts in an era of soaring inflation.

Commenting on Prospect’s decision to suspend its walkout on June 7, Mike Clancy, its general secretary, said: “We have agreed to pause our planned strike action because the government have communicated their willingness to engage in meaningful talks.

“Throughout this dispute, we have made clear that our members should not be treated worse than other workers in the public sector and that they deserve a pay deal that recognises the cost of living crisis that began last year.”

He said Prospect had called off the strike in order to enter the talks “in good faith”, but warned: “We will maintain our action short of a strike and review that position in light of the talks that are promised.”

The FDA, meanwhile, reversed a decision to ballot for national industrial action over pay, which would have been the union’s first such ballot in 40 years.

Dave Penman, FDA general secretary, said the threat of industrial action had been “intended to send a clear message” that the government “had failed to demonstrate that they valued the civil service equally with the rest of the public sector”.

He said the invitation to talks “may indicate that the government intends to change its approach to pay for this year”, but added: “If it does not, then the union stands ready to proceed with the ballot for industrial action that we have prepared for.”

The Cabinet Office said the government has “maintained an open dialogue with unions”, adding: “We have met with the respective unions to understand what role Cabinet Office may play in resolving their concerns and avoiding industrial action wherever possible.”

This post was originally published on Financial Times

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