PCS strike vote: Results of national ballot due

Whitehall Civil servants could go on strike around the Budget, a key event in the political calendar

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The largest civil service union is to unveil the result of a national ballot that could lead to walkouts at the time of the Budget later this month.

The Public and Commercial Service (PCS) Union is seeking a pay rise of £1,200 - or 5% - this year.

Almost 250,000 civil servants were balloted in a row encompassing job losses, pay and pensions.

The government accused the PCS of "pushing for futile action" which would damage public services.

"The government took the tough decision to freeze public sector pay for two years, while protecting those earning under £21,000 by increasing their pay by at least £250 per year," a spokesman for the Cabinet Office said.

"Pay restraint has helped to protect jobs in the public sector and support high quality public services."

The result of the PCS ballot on industrial action is expected on Monday afternoon. If members back industrial action, the union's national executive committee will then consider what form that might take.

Details of any walkouts are expected to be released later in the week and could involve stoppages at or around the time of the Budget on 20 March.

The union is demanding the government scrap plans to cut pensions and change its terms and conditions.

'Tried to reason'

"Civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the services we all rely on," said Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union.

"Yet instead of rewarding them, ministers have cut their pay and pensions and are now trying to rip up their basic working conditions.

"We have tried to reason with ministers but they continue to refuse to talk to us, so we're left with no choice but to take action."

Pay disputes may also lead to walkouts elsewhere in the public sector.

With the economy struggling, unions believe there is a compelling case for pay increases for workers.

Last week, local government employers tabled two pay offers which could end the three-year pay freeze covering 1.6 million council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The offers included a below-inflation pay rise of 1% tied to several conditions or a separate offer of 1% for staff - with a 0.6% rise for those on higher grades.

But the largest public sector union Unison, which says it represents 600,000 local government employees, has recommended that its members reject both options and is consulting over industrial action.

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