A civil servant explains why 100,000 are taking part in the biggest civil service strike in a generation.

This year, ministers announced that civil service pay rises would be capped at an average of 2% for the year ahead: against double-digit inflation, a massive real-terms pay cut. (PCS)

Civil servants touch the lives of everyone in the UK. It’s really rewarding, knowing what we’re doing is making an impact. The work is often intellectually demanding, and it can be difficult to switch off when you’re not at work. There are a huge range of roles in the civil service, and the jobs are often challenging.

When we received our pay offer, I was shocked. It took a while for the ramifications of it to really sink in. My immediate thought was, how am I going to survive? How am I going to afford to live? When you consider how quickly inflation is soaring and continues to soar, a couple of percent rise will be worthless.

The cost-of-living crisis has been horrible. As we get to winter, the stress just keeps increasing. As of November, I hadn’t turned the heating on. The weeks where I would usually do it are rolling by and I would say, ‘not a chance in hell that’s happening anytime soon.’ With the way gas and electricity prices are going, I don’t know how I’m going to cope.

I sit at home with multiple jumpers and pairs of socks on. I don’t turn the lights on unless it’s absolutely necessary and all the dishes get washed using cold water. It’s very uncomfortable living like this. It’s difficult when you have to make concessions in order to be able to travel to the office just to do your job. My commute is particularly long and expensive. I tried doing the maths to see if it would be cheaper travelling into the office more often, where it’s warm, instead of turning the heating on at home. But it turns out I can’t afford either.

It’s hard. Just the other day, I went into the office and realised I’d forgotten to bring a packed lunch with me and I had to buy something. I went to the shop and stood there in the crisp aisle. I looked and thought, this is ridiculous, I can’t even afford a packet of crisps. I had to bite the bullet in the end and get a packet of own-brand ready salted crisps. That’s my treat this month. It’s heartbreaking.

My heart aches for my colleagues. A shocking number of them are having to use food-banks. They can’t afford the commute to work. I’m a strong believer in bread for all and roses too, but roses are the first thing to go when you’re scrabbling to make rent. I recently heard a colleague mention she’s not going to be able to afford any Christmas presents for her children if she also wants to have food on the table.

People are angry. Nobody wants to go on strike, nobody wants to lose that pay. It’s really a last resort to protect our rights.

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