Politics

One in four DfE staff could join civil service strike

Ofsted employees also vote to walk out as PCS union vows 'major industrial action'

Ofsted employees also vote to walk out as PCS union vows 'major industrial action'

10 Nov 2022, 19:39

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Support for schools could be heavily disrupted in coming months with civil servants from education-related departments set to strike

Around a quarter of staff at the Department for Education and one sixth of Ofsted employees could strike after a vote in favour of “major industrial action” across the civil service.

It means school inspections, academy conversions and support for school leaders could be disrupted in the coming months.

On Thursday, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents junior civil servants, announced the threshold for action had been met in 126 workplaces.

Unless “substantial proposals” are received from government, the union said its National Executive Committee would agree a programme of “sustained action” at its meeting on November 18.

Action “involving all members” in the areas which meet the legal requirements “would be called to have the maximum effect, including coordinated action with other unions”.

Since 2016, unions have had to show 50 per cent turnout and 40 per cent support among voting members for action to be legal. The turnout threshold was met at the DfE and Ofsted, but not at exams regulator Ofqual.

The average vote in favour of strikes over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms was 86.2 per cent – the highest in the union’s history.

Employees in several other organisations that have work with schools – such as the Disclosures and Barring Service – will also take part in the walkouts. DfE bodies the Office for Students and Institute for Apprenticeships also reached the turnout threshold.

It will heap extra pressure on the government at a time when teachers in the National Education Union and NASUWT unions and senior leaders in NAHT are also being balloted for strike action.

It is not yet known when walkouts will take place. The PCS said members taking action would receive “significant financial support” from the union.

Over 1,800 DfE employees could join strike

At the DfE, 911 staff, or 88 per cent of the 1,031 employees who cast a vote in the ballot were in favour of industrial action. The 1,816 PCS members at the department equate to 24 per cent of its total workforce.

Of the 161 Ofsted employees who voted, 88 per cent were in favour. In total, 291 staff members – 16 per cent of the inspectorate’s workforce – were entitled to vote.

It is understood that those at inspector grades are members of fellow civil service union FDA, which is also considering formally balloting its members to take strike action. Ofsted declined to comment.

It is not known how many of those at the DfE, which also declined to comment, work on schools policy and support.

Research from the Institute for Government shows average public sector earnings in July were 4 per cent lower in real terms than 15 years ago.

The PCS is calling for a cost of living increase of 10 per cent, holiday entitlement of at least 35 days and London weighting of at least £5,000.

A government spokesperson said: “We regret this decision and remain in regular discussion with unions and staff.

“As the public would expect, we have plans in place to keep essential services running and minimise any potential disruption if strikes do go ahead.”

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