Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Saturday, 8 November 2008

Civil servants strike called off

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

A planned strike by more than 200,000 civil servants over pay has been suspended pending fresh talks.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union were due to walk out for 24 hours on Monday.

The action threatened disruption to jobcentres, benefit offices, driving test centres and coastguard sites.

The union was planning to follow the stoppage with a rolling programme of strikes to hit different Whitehall departments and agencies.

Dialogue welcomed

It said that the strike had been suspended for 28 days pending fresh talks aimed at resolving a series of disputes over pay.

In a letter to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, published on the union's website, Head of the Civil Service Sir Gus O'Donnell said recent discussions between the two sides had been "constructive".

"I welcome the dialogue and hope an agreement is possible," Mr Serwotka said.

The Cabinet Office said it welcomed the "reasonable decision in tough economic times", and remained "committed to an ongoing dialogue".

Civil servants voted last month for nationwide strikes in protest over the government's public sector pay policy.

The PCS union, which represents 270,000 workers, said 54% of those taking part in the ballot backed industrial action.

Its members are angry at a 2% cap on public sector pay and the fact that many of them earn little more than the minimum wage.

Officials are also unhappy that civil servants are being denied pay increases when they reach the top of their pay grade, something which the union says has left many people "significantly worse off".

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