The 80,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have voted two to one for strike action.
In a dispute over the threatened imposition of a below inflation pay offer, workers at Jobcentres, the Pension service and Child Support Agency (CSA) are angry that the offer would see approximately 40 per cent of staff receive zero per cent pay increase next year.
Sixty-two per cent of those voting in the ballot backed strike action over the possible imposition of a three year pay offer, which sees cost of living increases for longer serving staff members of two per cent this year, zero per cent next year and one per cent in the final year.
The pay offer averages just one per cent a year over the three years!
The PCS, DWP Group Executive Committee will meet today to discuss plans for at least a one-day national strike.
Meanwhile, the union has written to the Work and Pensions Minister, Hain, urging him to intervene and kick start negotiations in order to avert a dispute.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that the department should seek to impose pay cuts in real terms on hardworking staff who have borne the brunt of massive job cuts.
‘The anger of staff is illustrated by this strong vote in favour of strike action over an offer that will see the lowest paid receive only 24 pence above the minimum wage if it is imposed.
‘We urge the department to step back from provoking industrial action and re-enter talks on a pay deal that recognises the important role staff play in delivering essential public services.’
l A consortium led by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group was yesterday named by Northern Rock as preferred buyer for the stricken bank.
The Treasury-backed Virgin offer includes an immediate repayment of £11bn of the £25bn the bank owes the Bank of England.
The offer proposes to inject £1.3bn of new cash into Northern Rock, with half of that money coming from the consortium and the remainder raised through an offer to existing Rock shareholders, to buy new shares for 25 pence each.
Virgin prices Northern Rock assets at £200m, considerably less than its current market price of £362m.
The Virgin-led consortium would end up with 55 per cent of the new bank, leaving current shareholders with 45 per cent.
Virgin claims that it will repay the remaining £14bn of Treasury loans over the next three years.
One of Northern Rock’s biggest investors, RAB Capital, which owns about 6.7 per cent of the bank, said the offer price was ‘too low’ and it would reject the bid.
And a group representing small shareholders said it will need to see the details of the Virgin bid before they give their support.