A national strike ballot of tens of thousands of civil servants has been launched in the latest outbreak of industrial unrest sweeping the country.
More than 200,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will vote in the coming weeks on whether to strike over pay, jobs and conditions.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said civil servants were facing job losses, pay cuts and increased pension contributions, leaving the union with no choice but to ballot for action.
If there is a strike it will disrupt vital services such as benefit payments, border security, courts and the environment, he said.
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The union is calling for a 10% pay rise, a minimum wage of £15 an hour and no job cuts.
The Government has announced plans to cut 91,000 civil service jobs.
Mr Serwotka said: “The Government has ignored our demands for a fair pay rise, so we have no choice other than to launch what is the most significant ballot for strike action in our history.
“In 41 years of working in and around the civil service, I have never seen such a shocking situation. This is the worst it has ever been – a crisis of monumental proportions, the biggest cut in living standards civil servants have ever known.
“The stress of working in the civil service, under the pressure put on us with job cuts, office closures and the cost-of-living crisis, is too much to bear.
“Hard-working civil servants are being told to accept a 10% real-terms pay cut at the same time as bankers are being told they can help themselves to even greater riches – is it any wonder they’re angry?
“Our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, with many of them having to claim the benefits they administer themselves, some skipping meals because they can’t afford to buy food, and others having to use food banks.”