Public Services industrial action Q&A

Answers to common questions about industrial action  in the the public services sector 2023.

Why is Prospect taking industrial action?

In February members voted in favour of taking strike action and action short of a strike as part of our dispute with civil service and public sector employers over pay, head-count reduction and the threat to redundancy terms.

When is Prospect taking industrial action?

Prospect members will take strike action for one day on Wednesday 15 March.

Action short of a strike will begin on Thursday 16 March. This will take the form of working conditioned hours and a refusal to undertake voluntary overtime.

The current mandate for industrial action lasts for six months and further action may be announced if insufficient progress is made in resolving the dispute.

What is industrial action?

Industrial action is a means by which employees and their representative trade unions can apply pressure on employers when negotiations fail to resolve a trade dispute. Forms of industrial action include:

  • Strike action: A strike is where a group of employees agree to stop working in order to protest against their employer. This means the employees will stop working on strike days
  • Action short of a strike:This is action that members can take during their daily working life and outside strike days and it can take many different forms.In this dispute, we are asking members to only work your conditioned hours and to refuse to undertake voluntary overtime. By conditioned hours we mean your contracted hours that are used to calculate your salary, before any overtime or time of in lieu would normally be calculated.

    It is important that you only take the industrial action that is mandated by Prospect.

About taking strike action

Do I need to tell my employer if I am planning to take strike action?

You do not need to tell your employer of your intention to take part in the strike, either in advance or on the day of the strike action.

I have specific deadlines which require me to work on the day of the strike. What should I do?

You should join the strike. It is your employer’s duty to ensure the work is covered, not yours individually. By striking, you will demonstrate the importance of your role, and strengthen the case for better pay, conditions and job security.

Can my employer ask a non-striking worker to cover work that is normally my sole responsibility?

Yes, they can ask non-union members to cover the work.

I am not a member of Prospect. Can I join the strike action?

You can take part in the strike and action short of a strike if industrial action has been mandated against your employer and you are not a member of any union.

If you are taking action, we strongly recommend you join Prospect to benefit from our expert guidance and the protection trade union membership offers.

Do I have to join a picket line if I’m on strike?

Visiting a picket line is a great way to show support for the strike but you are not obliged to attend.

There are other ways to show solidarity in an industrial dispute that may be more appropriate for you. You can encourage non-members to join Prospect. You can share information about the dispute.

Speak to your branch reps about the best way for you to support industrial action.

I work remotely. How can I take part in strike action?

If you work remotely, do not log on to your work computer systems on the day of the strike. This includes checking emails or accessing content on a work phone. If you can, why not visit a picket line or promote the strike on your social channels?

About taking action short of a strike

Do I need to tell my line manager I am taking part in action short of strike?

You do not need to notify your line manager in advance if you’re planning to take action short of a strike.

If declining additional duties to avoid working over your contracted hours, you can simply state that you’re doing so as part of the industrial action being taken by Prospect.

You are not obliged to tell your colleagues, but explaining your reasons for taking part can help promote the aims of the industrial action and encourage your colleagues to join you.

How does action short of a strike relate to hours of work?

Prospect is asking members to only work their contracted hours and to refuse overtime. This also means taking the comfort breaks you are entitled to and refusing to undertake additional tasks that may mean you working outside of your normal working hours. If you are unsure of refusing a task speak to your branch rep who will be able to offer guidance specific to your job role.

How does working conditioned hours work with things like flexitime?

Only work the hours you should be working. If you are on a rota, stick to the times you have agreed in advance. You should refuse to provide out of hours or short notice cover for absent colleagues, unless your branch has agreed in advance to provide cover in these circumstances.

Your right to take industrial action

Can I be dismissed or disciplined for taking industrial action?

You are automatically protected against dismissal for the first 12 weeks after the start of the action . After this period, you are still protected in some circumstances. You have a right to take industrial action that has been mandated by us and you are protected from dismissal by your employer.

Prospect has followed all the necessary legal steps in conducting the ballot and in calling this industrial action. And we would not put members at risk of dismissal.

Also see: Taking part in industrial action and strikes: Your employment rights during industrial action – Gov.UK

Prospect will provide support for any members who feel they are treated unfairly due to taking action. We recommend non-members join Prospect to benefit from this protection too.

Am I obliged to take part in the action?

Prospect is instructing members to take the mandated action on the designated dates, and you are protected by law when you do so. We expect you to join your colleagues in action, but you are not obliged to participate. By standing alongside your colleagues, you will help to win better pay, conditions and protection, to benefit yourself and your colleagues.

I voted for action short of a strike, my branch is taking strike action, can I take action short of a strike on that day and still work?

No, if your branch is taking strike action, you cannot take action short of a strike instead.

Will I still be paid if I take strike action? Will it affect my pension?

Your employer is likely to withhold your wages for any day on which you take strike action. They may also make a small adjustment to your pension contribution to reflect the day’s absence from work.

Could taking industrial action affect my chances of promotion or my career prospects?

Your employer should not penalise you for taking mandated industrial action. If you are offered promotion or a new role whilst undertaking industrial action, you can still take it.

I’m concerned that by striking I may compromise the safety and security of those who depend on me doing my job. What should I do?

Prospect will ensure there is adequate cover for safety critical job roles and employers will be informed in advance of which areas may be affected by industrial action. If deemed necessary, branches will have contingency plans to return to work in emergency situations in which life and limb are threatened. Discuss with you branch rep if you are concerned about compromising safety by striking.

Further information about the campaign

Where can I get more information?

Details about the dispute and Prospect’s industrial action can be found on our campaign page. If you are a member of Prospect and signed up to our mailing list you will also receive updates by email. If you have further questions, your branch rep may be able to answer them.

For the latest updates you can follow Prospect and Garry Graham, deputy general secretary on Twitter.

What more can I do to support the campaign?

Speak to your colleagues and promote the aims of our campaign. If your colleagues are not members, encourage them to still take action alongside you join Prospect. From day one, new joiners will benefit from the support and protection that Prospect members enjoy. Also get in touch with you branch and take an active part!

If you have any other questions relating the industrial action please speak to your branch representative.