By Marcus Leach
More than a quarter of a million civil and public servants will ballot for a strike over cuts to pensions, jobs and pay, following an overwhelming vote at the Public and Commercial Services union annual conference.
Ballot papers will be issued from next week and the ballot will close mid-June, with the first action possible later that month. The union is working closely with education unions who are also balloting over pensions or have already voted and taken strike action, bringing the total to 750,000 union members.
Delegates speaking in the debate talked about how the coalition government's policies are wreaking havoc on their livelihoods, their families and their communities, and pledged their commitment to campaign against all cuts.
The government's slash and burn approach to tackling the budget deficit will throw hundreds of thousands of public sector workers out of work, impose a pay freeze on those that remain, axe vital public services, and undermine hard-won rights such as pensions and redundancy terms.
The government has already made it clear it will implement Lord Hutton's proposals on public sector pensions, meaning civil and public servants will pay higher contributions and work longer for a lower pension.
The union wants: no detrimental changes to pensions or the civil service redundancy scheme; a strengthening of the Cabinet Office-agreed measures to avoid compulsory redundancies; and an end to the pay freeze and a fair pay rise for all.
The conference agreed to: hold a national ballot in defence of jobs, pensions and pay; and continue to work with other trade unions to co-ordinate action for maximum impact.
"Everything we have ever worked for is under threat - but we know there is an alternative and we are committed to fighting for it and, if necessary, striking for it," PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said.
"The economic crisis was not caused by our members' jobs, pensions or pay and it is shameful and wrong that the coalition government is attempting to scapegoat them in its bid to slash and burn the welfare state."