Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 17:48 UK

Civil servants to strike over pay

Union placard
The PCS union says a quarter of civil servants earn less than 16,500

Civil servants have voted in favour of nationwide strikes in protest at the government's public sector pay policy.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents 270,000 workers, said 54% of those taking part in the ballot backed industrial action.

Workers including Jobcentre staff, court employees and coastguards are angry at a 2% cap on public sector pay. Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson said it was a "very close result" and urged the union to continue negotiations.

The union's executive will meet next Thursday to decide dates for a programme of strikes which could last for the rest of the year.

'Financial hardship'

General secretary Mark Serwotka said a quarter of civil servants earned less than 16,500 per year, with thousands paid just above the minimum wage.

"The government's policy of capping public sector pay has hit some of the lowest paid in the public sector the hardest, leading to real terms pay cuts and pay freezes," he said.

"The hard-working people who keep this country running, from passports, immigration and justice, to coastguards, tax and Jobcentres, face increasing financial hardship because of the pay cap.

"Pay freezes and real term pay cuts are simply not sustainable when you are earning a pittance and experiencing double digit rises in food, fuel and housing costs.

"Bailing out bankers should not be at the expense of those who deliver public services or those who rely on them."

'Wrong action'

The union has held a series of pay strikes this year which have hit government services across the UK.

In April, 100,000 civil servants walked out for 24 hours during a strike which coincided with action by the NUT teachers' union.

Mr Watson said: "This is a very close result, with nearly half of PCS members taking part in the ballot rejecting strike action.

"In the current economic climate, we believe it is the wrong action at the wrong time. We urge the PCS to continue negotiating."

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