At the Prospect union conference in Torquay, delegates representing 40,000 of the government’s most qualified staff carried an emergency motion committing their union to a ballot on industrial action in the event of ‘minus 2%’ pay offers.
Dai Hudd, assistant general secretary of Prospect, the union for professionals, called 2008 “a crunch pay round for public sector professionals after years of restraint”. He urged the union’s 44 civil service branches to campaign among members for industrial action and to lobby MPs in marginal seats to put pressure on ministers.
The government’s arguments for discriminating against the pay of its own specialist staff were threadbare, he said. ”Inflation has just jumped to 3% on the government’s preferred measure for reasons that have nothing to do with the pay of civil servants.
“To pretend that pay rises of more than 2% will send inflation through the roof is a lie and an insult to the intelligence of every public servant.”
Hudd warned ministers that the government would soon pay a heavy price for its public sector pay policy in terms of recruitment and retention and staff support for its own programme of work.
Speakers from Ordnance Survey, Environment Agency, Met Office, the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory, Valuation Office Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Defra backed his call. They accused the government of making public servants the scapegoats for the economic ills facing the country.
Industrial action by government specialists would involve vets and animal health officers, forensic scientists, surveyors, vehicle inspectors, health and safety inspectors, defence scientists and logistics staff, museum curators and conservators, highways officers and other key professionals working for government.