100,000 civil servants to stage 24-hour February walkout in ‘largest strike for years’

Striking Border Force staff on the picket line at Birmingham Airport in December  (PA Wire)
Striking Border Force staff on the picket line at Birmingham Airport in December (PA Wire)

Around 100,000 civil servants from 124 government departments and bodies are to stage a 24-hour strike next month in a worsening dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union announced the walkout, which will take place on February 1, on Wednesday evening.

The union said it will be the largest civil service strike for years and signals a “significant escalation” of industrial action after a month of strikes by its members, including Border Force staff.

Members will be striking at key government departments including the Cabinet Office, Home Office, Ofsted and Department for Work and Pensions - as well as bodies including Border Force, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and National Highways.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said he is due to meet with Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jeremy Quin, on Thursday, adding that the dispute could be resolved “if he puts some money on the table”.

But he warned: “If he doesn’t, then he’ll see public services from benefits to driving tests, from passports to driving licences, from ports to airports affected by industrial action on February 1.”

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The stoppage will coincide with the Trades Union Congress’s “protect the right to strike” day, which was announced in reaction to the Government’s controversial legislation on minimum service levels during industrial action.

A further 33,000 PCS members working in five more departments, including HM Revenue & Customs, are next week re-balloting to join the union’s national strike action.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said on Wednesday: “During the last month, when thousands of PCS members across a range of departments took sustained industrial action, the government said it had no money.

“But it managed to find millions of pounds to spend on managers and military personnel in a failed attempt to cover the vital work our members do.

“We warned the government our dispute would escalate if they did not listen – and we’re as good as our word.

“I am meeting with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jeremy Quin, tomorrow – if he puts some money on the table there is a chance this dispute can be resolved. If he doesn’t, then he’ll see public services from benefits to driving tests, from passports to driving licences, from ports to airports affected by industrial action on February 1.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PA Archive)
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PA Archive)

Responding to news of the strike, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We regret this decision and the Union’s rush to disruptive strike action.

“We greatly value the work of civil servants across the country, but the PCS Union’s demands would cost an unaffordable £2.4 billion at a time when our focus must be on bringing down inflation to ease the pressure on households across the country.

“We can provide reassurance that we have comprehensive plans in place to keep essential services running.“Discussions will continue and we will be meeting with civil service unions tomorrow, including PCS, as part of that ongoing engagement.”

The civil servants’ walkout is the latest in a string of strikes to hit the UK, as industrial action continues across sectors including rail, education and healthcare.

Wednesday saw thousands of ambulance workers strike in the face of “disheartening” and “demoralising” conditions in the NHS.

Meanwhile Thursday will see rail services on London’s new Elizabeth Line disrupted as members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and Prospect walk out for the day in a strike over pay and pensions.