Public and Commercial Services Union

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Public and Commercial Services Union
Headquarters160 Falcon Road, London
  • United Kingdom
Key people
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary
John Moloney, Assistant General Secretary
Fran Heathcote, President
AffiliationsTUC, ICTU, STUC, NSSN, PSI, The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is the sixth largest trade union in the United Kingdom.[1] Most of its members work in UK government departments and other public bodies.


The union was founded in 1998 by the merger of the Public Services, Tax and Commerce Union (which mostly represented the executive grades of the Civil Service) and the Civil and Public Services Association (mostly representing the clerical grades). The General Secretaries of the two unions, John Sheldon and Barry Reamsbottom respectively, became Joint General Secretaries of the new union. In 2000, Mark Serwotka was elected General Secretary[2] and has held the position since: he was elected unopposed in 2005 (no other candidate received enough valid nominations from PCS branches); he was re-elected in 2009 for a five-year term, and in 2014 was re-elected for a further five years.[3] In 2018, the union won £3 million in damages from the Department for Work and Pensions,[4] after a legal challenge against the withdrawal of the "check off" system of paying union subscriptions.

Membership and organisation[edit]

The union had 195,901 members at the end of 2015[5] and is the largest trade union representing civil servants in the UK.[6]

PCS is organised into groups that deal with different bargaining units such as Revenue and Customs, Work and Pensions and Law and Justice.

Two factions compete in elections to the National Executive Committee of the PCS, its governing body: the ruling Left Unity faction,[7] which stands candidates as part of the Democracy Alliance, and an opposing Independent Left faction.[8]

PCS Credit Union[edit]

PCS Credit Union Limited is a savings and loans co-operative established by the trade union for its members in 2011.[9] It is a member of the Association of British Credit Unions Limited,[10] authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the PRA. Ultimately, like the banks and building societies, members’ savings are protected against business failure by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.[11]


Organisations to which PCS is affiliated include Abortion Rights,[12] Amnesty international and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.[13]

Strikes and protests involving PCS members[edit]



PCS members on strike in 2010.
  • On 8 March 2010, 270,000 civil servants began a 48-hour strike over government changes to redundancy payments.[15]


  • The union voted for a one-day strike on 30 June 2011.[16]


  • Strike action was organised for New Year's Eve 2013 for all Metropolitan Police Service Civil Staff due to a pay dispute. Taking strike action on this day was deemed to be most effective because of the busy nature of the day for police.[17] The MPS offered a below inflation wage increase of 1%. Another strike ballot was announced on 6 February 2014 for strike action on 12 and 13 February 2014.
  • As part of the union's budget day strikes,[18] a series of protests took place across branches in the Culture Group, including Tate and National Museums Liverpool to highlight the effect of government cuts to arts funding.[19]


  • PCS announced they would be joining a national strike alongside other unions on Budget Day - 10 July, over pay restraint and austerity in the public sector.[20]


  • From 11 August 2015, PCS members at the National Gallery took indefinite strike action against a proposed privatisation of the security staff at the gallery.[21] The strike lasted for over 100 days.[22]
  • Another of the union's Culture Group branches went on strike in December 2015 against the removal of weekend allowances.[25] The dispute at the National Museum of Scotland branch was eventually ended when funding from the Scottish Government enabled a buy out of the allowances.[26]



  • Strike action of Driving Examiners was organised for 4 and 5 December to coincide with the introduction of new driving tests in order to protest against the introduction of Satellite Navigation to the test on 4 December. Examiners also voted started work to rule on 23 November.[28][29]


  • In December 2019, Security Guards and Front of House workers at Wallace Collection successfully protested outside an exhibition opening to secure the London Living Wage.[34]


  • Following mass redundancies in the arts and culture sector caused by the COVID-19 lockdown, PCS members working for the commercial arm of Tate galleries in London took 42 days strike action against mass redundancies.[35] A further 300 redundancies were also announced at Southbank Centre, leading to mass protests by PCS members outside the venues.[36]


  • After a large, and in several cases fatal, COVID-19 outbreak in the offices of the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), PCS members took multiple days of strike action in June and July to highlight the lack of adequate health and safety protection.[37]


General Secretaries[edit]

1998: John Sheldon and Barry Reamsbottom
2000: Mark Serwotka

Assistant General Secretaries[edit]

2000: Hugh Lanning
2004: Chris Baugh and Hugh Lanning
2013: Chris Baugh[38]
2019: John Moloney[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About PCS". Public and Commercial Services Union Website. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  2. ^ Daniels, Gary; McIlroy, John, eds. (2009), "Trade Unions in a Neoliberal World", Routledge Research in Employment Relations Series, Taylor & Francis, vol. 20, p. 154, ISBN 9780415426633
  3. ^ "Mark Serwotka re-elected". PCS News centre. 17 December 2009. Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  4. ^ "PCS union wins £3m payout from DWP in check-off victory | Civil Service World". Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Public and Commercial Services Union: 2015 Annual Return" (PDF). Gov.UK. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  6. ^ "PCS union renews pension strike threat". BBC. 11 January 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "PCS Independent Left". PCS Independent Left.
  9. ^ PCS Credit Union Public and Commercial Services Union (retrieved 21 February 2015)
  10. ^ Credit unions in membership of ABCUL Archived 3 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine Association of British Credit Unions (retrieved 1 November 2014)
  11. ^ Credit Union Guide Financial Services Compensation Scheme (retrieved 2 April 2015)
  12. ^ "Abortion Rights: PCS Public-Sector Workers Reject Demands To End Affiliation To Progressive Rights Group". 23 May 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  13. ^ Mark, Serwoka (2014). "PCS Annual financial report". PCS. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Museum staff go on strike in pay dispute". Reuters. 13 June 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  15. ^ "270,000 civil servants join 48-hour strike". BBC. 8 March 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
  16. ^ McSmith, Andy; Morris, Nigel (16 June 2011). "Britain walks out: UK braced for biggest wave of strikes since the 1980s". The Independent. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  17. ^ "Metropolitan Police civilian Staff on New Year's Eve strike". BBC News. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  18. ^ "Budget Day strike for civil servants". 6 March 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  19. ^ Waddington, Marc (29 May 2013). "Liverpool museum staff to walk out in Government cuts protest". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  20. ^ "PCS union to join 10 July public sector strike". BBC News. 1 July 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  21. ^ Gayle, Damien (11 August 2015). "National Gallery staff strike shuts down most exhibitions". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  22. ^ "Deal ends National Gallery strike". 2 October 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  23. ^ "Museum staff back strikes over pay". 22 July 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Queen's staff in industrial action". 15 April 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  25. ^ "National Museum hit by strike action". 27 December 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  26. ^ "National museum pay dispute resolved". 15 April 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  27. ^ Lawrence, Felicity (28 July 2016). "HMRC cleaners striking over pay: 'They've treated us appallingly'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  28. ^ "DVSA workers set to strike in dispute over new driving test". Public and Commercial Services Union. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Driving examiners to strike on test day". BBC News. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  30. ^ "Why the Beefeaters at the Tower of London are on strike". The Independent. 7 January 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  31. ^ Davies, Caroline (21 December 2018). "Beefeaters at Tower of London strike for first time in 55 years". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  32. ^ Syal, Rajeev (17 December 2018). "BEIS faces strike over low pay for outsourced service workers". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  33. ^ correspondent, Owen Bowcott Legal affairs (10 January 2019). "Ministry of Justice workers to stage two-day strike over pay". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  34. ^ "'Xavier Bray, end low pay!': Wallace Collection staff fight for London Living Wage". 5 December 2019. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  35. ^ "Tate strike suspended as 'improved offer' is finalised". Museums Association. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  36. ^ Speare-Cole, Rebecca (1 August 2020). "Crowds protest against National Theatre and Southbank Centre job cuts". Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  37. ^ Lewis, Ffion (2 June 2021). "Hundreds of DVLA workers on strike due to Covid safety fears". WalesOnline. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  38. ^ "PCS setback for the left". Socialism Today. June 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2022.
  39. ^ "How we are run". PCS. Retrieved 6 October 2022.

External links[edit]