Civil servants are dreading energy bill hike of 54%

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PCS strikers in Liverpool defending jobs, pay and conditions. The PCS at HMRC is balloting nationally for action over pay, pensions, and living standards

CIVIL servants in the PCS union have shared how they are dreading the steep rise in energy prices as energy regulator Ofgem yesterday confirmed a 54% increase from April after it lifted the cap on default tariffs to £1,971.

Many PCS members, the government’s own workers, are already feeling the cost-of-living crisis acutely, following years of wage stagnation and being forced to overpay into their pensions:

  • Their pay has been frozen and capped, and their living standards have fallen by around 20% in real terms in the last decade. The average PCS member is worse off by £2,300 a year since 2011.
  • Inflation is running at 5.4% and is predicted to rise even higher in 2022.
  • National Insurance contributions will rise in April – for a member on £20,000 it will increase from around £1,200 to £1,330 a year – up 10%.

Ofgem’s move will raise the average energy bill by about £700 a year and despite additional support announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak today, even he admits most households will be worse off.
Emma, who works as an AO at a jobcentre said she felt ‘extremely scared’ about what was coming as she already struggles to make ends meet.
‘I need a decent pay rise to afford the cost of living,’ she said.
Fellow DWP member Siobhan agreed: ‘I feel frightened by how much the bills will go up.’
Tony, who works for the Department for Education, fears the worst: ‘I feel this could be the killer for me. Without credit I couldn’t survive.’
He says that civil servants should earn a consistent pay increase based on inflation.
‘That is the only sustainable way of organising pay,’ he said.
‘I have argued consistently that the pay should not be negotiated in the way it is. We should have a system similar to the MPs where pay is decided by an independent forum.’
As a result the PCS are balloting all public sector members from 14 February to 21 March to ask what action they would be prepared to take in support of a 2022 pay claim of:

  • A cost-of-living rise of 10%.
  • A living wage of £15 an hour.
  • An annual leave allowance of at least 35 days a year on entry.
  • A significant reduction in the working week with no loss of pay.
  • A London Weighting payment of £5,000 a year, with no detriment to anyone currently entitled to more than that.
  • A return to national civil service bargaining on pay and terms and conditions.
  • An immediate cut in pension contributions of 2% backdated to 2019.

PCS said: ‘This is a consultative ballot to test members’ strength of feeling.
‘A big yes vote will send a powerful message to government ministers and individual employers.
‘The bigger the yes vote the stronger the union’s position will be in talks with ministers.
‘If members vote yes, the PCS say they will hold a full statutory ballot on industrial action.’
Meanwhile, there is now a national ballot launched for the PCS 2022 pay claim for the staff that work for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
PCS said: ‘We have submitted our 2022 pay claim to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which seeks to address levels of disparity and inequality that are completely unacceptable and are in urgent need of redress.
‘We lodged our claim with permanent secretary Jeremy Pocklington on 23 December and made the case that following decades of pay restraint, pay rises are needed for all staff.
‘We are focused on maximising the total sum of money available to fund the offer by pressing management to approach the Treasury and proactively make the case for additional funding to enable the creation of a fairer and more rational pay system.
‘We are looking to secure fully consolidated increases for all members to protect the real level value of both their current salaries and their future pension entitlements.’
The pay claim in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities calls for:
‘1) Cost of living rises
‘For 2022, in addition to progress on coherence of pay scales, we are also seeking a cost of living rise of 10%.
‘We are seeking a single rate for the job for each grade set at the following level:
‘2) London pay range
‘On top of the national salary points that we are seeking to negotiate, we are seeking a London pay differential, incorporated into consolidated pay, of at least £5,000 per annum, with no detriment to any worker currently entitled to more than that.
‘3) A Living Wage
‘Underpinning all elements of our claim for 2022, we are seeking a living wage of £15 an hour.
‘4) Annual leave
‘We are seeking improvements in annual leave provision to at least 35 days a year on entry; with no detriment to any worker currently entitled to more than that.
‘5) Working week
‘We believe that the time is right to consider what the future world of work might look like and how workers might benefit from new technology and from more flexible ways of working.
‘We are therefore seeking a significant reduction in the working week with no loss of pay.
‘6) Pay coherence
‘PCS has a long-standing objective of securing a return to national bargaining on pay and terms and conditions covering all workers in the civil service and its related areas.’

  • Staff at the HMRC are also being balloted.

PCS said: ‘We are balloting all PCS public sector members from 14 February to 21 March on our national campaign to raise pay, pensions and living standards.
‘Our national executive committee has decided that it is time to say that rising inflation, April’s National Insurance rise and pensions robbery can no longer be accepted.’