26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: COVID lessons ‘will keep services running’

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The United Kingdom Cabinet Office has preparations in place to minimise the impact of Public Service strike, with Departments to draw on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep critical services running.

Its pledge came after the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) said its members across 126 Departments, Agencies and other public bodies had voted in favour of strike action to secure a 10 per cent pay rise and a reduction in pensions’ contributions.

The PCS, the Public Service’s biggest union, has given Ministers an ultimatum to reopen negotiations on its current maximum three per cent offer or it will begin large-scale staff walkouts.

The Cabinet Office said there would inevitably be disruption to some services, but arrangements were being put in place to minimise this and make sure key services were kept running.

“The experience of responding to unexpected events such as COVID-19 has developed and tested Departments’ ability to flex their resources to protect the most critical services,” it said.

“Departments are building on this and preparing contingency measures for resourcing key roles such as training internal staff and prioritising essential business.”

The Cabinet Office said it would be taking oversight of ensuring high-quality planning and preparations for services such as passports and benefits that were delivered by Public Servants, and that Ministers were personally overseeing and coordinating the process.

A Government spokesperson expressed disappointment at the strike vote and suggested dialogue with the PCS would continue.

“We regret this decision and remain in regular discussion with unions and staff,” the spokesperson said.

“The public sector pay awards are a careful balance between delivering value for money for the taxpayer and recognising the importance of public sector workers.”

London, 14 November 2022

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