Government specialists threaten national strike


Government specialists threaten national strike

Angry public sector scientists, engineers, managers and other professionals meet in Torquay this Sunday (May 18) to vote on a national walk-out of public sector specialists in protest at the Treasury’s stranglehold over civil service pay.

The threat of industrial action is the subject of an emergency motion to be debated at a conference of 40,000 professional civil servants represented by Prospect, on May 18 at the Riviera Centre, Torquay.

Industrial action by government specialists would involve vets and animal health officers, forensic scientists, surveyors, vehicle and health and safety inspectors, defence scientists and logistics staff, museum curators and conservators, highway officers and many others.

It follows the union’s representations to government to highlight growing frustration over the Treasury pay remit guidance, including the 2% pay cap, how it is applied and delays in the process for clearing remits.

Members will be asked to back a proposal that if any final pay offer or imposed award in any bargaining unit covered by the remit guidance fails to give a minimum 2% consolidated pay increase to all grades, Prospect will begin a ballot of industrial action across all bargaining units whose pay is not already settled.

In a letter last month to Yvette Cooper, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the union said members were frustrated by a remit guidance which discriminates against the civil service as it contains no provision for independent review and, unlike other public sector areas such as health and education, has never been modernised or reformed.

Prospect argued that the civil service is unique in having to count the costs of pay progression against the pay remit, often resulting in non-consolidated, low increases or pay freezes for those on the top of their scale. Those hit hardest are usually long-serving staff, “who carry out specialist functions vital for the delivery of government objectives.”

The issue of pay will return to the debating floor the next day during Prospect’s biennial national conference, which runs from May 19-21. More than 400 delegates, representing all the union’s 102,000 members, will debate motions including calls for:

  • NATS, the air traffic control service provider, to be taken back into public ownership if the Airline Group, its not-for-profit shareholder, seeks to sell its stake in the PPP
  • action to improve health and safety management in the electricity industry after last year’s figures showed the highest number of fatalities in 15 years
  • sufficient funds to maintain a viable British defence sector following the framework contained in the Defence Industrial Strategy
  • greater support for union environmental representatives.