Driving examiners on the West Didsbury picket line in December 2022 (Picture: Sarah Ensor)

Results of new strike ballots by civil service workers are set to be announced soon. If successful, it would mean up to 33,000 PCS union members could join the 100,000 in other government departments already set to strike on 15 March.

The largest group of new strikers by far would come from workers in the HMRC tax offices. Marianne Owens, an HMRC worker on the PCS national executive committee, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.

“Members are angry,” she said. “In April, a third of HMRC staff will effectively be on the minimum wage.

“We collect the money for every other public service. But we’re understaffed, underfunded and are essentially a minimum wage employer.”

Workers in several government departments have already struck in targeted action and across the civil service in a fight over pay, pensions and jobs. The ballots ending on Tuesday of this week were among sections that didn’t previously reach the 50 percent turnout threshold in votes last year.

But after solid strikes activists in HMRC are feeling confident. “The campaign has felt different this time,” said Marianne. “HMRC hasn’t been on strike for over a decade, so members are excited at the prospect of being able to join in with everybody else.”

If the votes are successful, it would be yet another example that government workers are ready to strike over pay. Yet so far, the battle has been fought on a programme of “rolling” action involving small groups of workers at a time.

The PCS is set to ballot workers again between 20 March and 9 May. This is because the legal mandate for strikes is set to expire on 6 May. It means that most workers with strike mandates will have only struck twice between the two ballots. 

The ballot results on Tuesday will likely add to their ability to shut down the workings of the government. The most powerful move after that would be to call all of those workers out together—and for longer than a day at a time.

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