England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

PCS consultative ballot: Vote No to winding down our dispute!

Socialist Alternative members within the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are encouraging members of the union to vote No in the current consultative ballot on the continuation of the national campaign.

This ballot comes off the back of a meeting of the union’s National Executive Committee, where feedback was given from individual branches, after the announcement of amendments to the Civil Service 2023-24 pay remit at the beginning of June. This amendment gave Civil Service departments the flexibility to make a £1500 payment to those who fall within the relevant bargaining areas. 

Government offer will not address problems with pay

This payment is for one year only, will not add money to members’ pensions and is totally unfunded, requiring departments to juggle budgets to find the money to pay their staff. Whilst any additional money is welcomed by most members, many of whom are on minimum wage or close to following nearly a decade and a half of pay freezes and restraint, this payment comes nowhere near to addressing the fundamental problems with pay in the civil service. 

For members of staff hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, part-time staff and staff on Universal Credit, they will feel even less benefit, as it will likely lead to UC deductions for many. There are some members who, as a result of deductions to the child care element of UC, will actually end up worse off than they would have been without the payment. Scandalously, it appears the union leadership did not even question these issues when they met with the cabinet secretary prior to the announcement. In a letter dated 4 June, Jeremy Quinn stated “I note that you raised no objection on these grounds when we met”.

All of this information was clear to ordinary members and activists who read the Civil Service remit, but seemed to shock the union leadership when it was raised as an issue by angry part-time members during members meetings.

As well as this on- off payment, the government has offered a slightly increased pay remit for 23/24 compared to other years – 4.5 to 5%. However this still falls significantly below where inflation currently is, and does nothing to address the 2% most PCS members received in 22/23, where the union’s national campaign is still demanding 10%.

Leadership rolling back

In May, at the union’s Annual Delegate Conference, members and the leadership were rightly criticising this as an insulting offer. Members voted on a number of strategies to escalate the national campaign. The union leadership left that conference with a mandate for re-balloting areas who did not meet the ballot threshold. There was a mandate to refuse to enter pay talks while our national campaign continued, as well as building for more targeted and all-out action to pressure the employer to meet our demands. 

Since then, however, the government has dangled the carrot of £1,500 before the union leadership, which has led them to abandon all of the above. There has been no further all-out action, re-ballots have been called off and the only places where action has been announced has been in areas where the £1,500 is not being paid. The union leadership has gone from pressuring the employer to meet our demands, to ‘pressuring’ the employer to give us the crumbs off the table.

This is their strategy for the national campaign – no strikes, ending the levy used to give members strike pay during targeted action, no reballots, but to accept a limited one off payment, and to enter delegated talks to “see what happens”. Anybody with sense could tell the leadership what will happen: a 4.5% increase to the pay remit, will lead to on average a 4.5% below-inflation ‘increase’ to pay! This is still as insulting as it was in May.

Members still know that this offer is insulting, and that is why the leadership have been forced to present the ballot question in as misleading a fashion as possible. Voting to endorse the union’s strategy for continuing the campaign means to endorse a strategy to call off meaningful industrial action, and essentially wrap up the campaign.


We call on members to reject this ‘strategy’, to vote No and call for more action, targeted and all-out, for reballots across all impacted areas, including on action-short-of-strike, which has been left out previously. We need to continue this campaign until we get the results we deserve.

But this clearly will not be possible under the current national leadership. From day one of their term this year, they have, with the exception of the minority of left-wing NEC members, overwhelmingly voted to abandon conference-agreed policy. They have done the government’s job for them in selling us a shoddy deal.

It is positive that the two main left-wing groups in the union – the Broad Left Network and the Independent Left will be standing a joint slate for the General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary elections. Socialist Alternative members will be moving this slate at branches we have members in and encourage others to as well, including those in Left Unity (the dominant faction in the leadership) who disagree with this current strategy. What our union also desperately needs is a genuine, rank-and-file led organisation which can hold the union’s senior officers to account, with full internal democracy, which can be used by fighting reps and branch activists across the country. 

We need a fighting leadership of PCS that can win what our members deserve. The candidates of Left Unity and the bureaucracy have been happy to sell us an inadequate strategy, which has sold some inadequate concessions as a huge victory. They must be replaced.

We cannot trust this leadership either with this campaign, or with the future of our union. Vote No, and vote to replace this leadership in the upcoming elections.


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