Union claims ongoing strike has caused GDS ‘coding freeze’

PCS says walkout has stopped updates to GOV.UK, but government claims digital staff ‘continue to work on improvements’

The PCS union claims that ongoing strike action has caused a “coding freeze” at the Government Digital Service.

PCS members working for the digital unit in systems support roles yesterday began a week-long walkout. The commencement of industrial action was marked by a picket line outside GDS headquarters in east London yesterday morning, which PCS said was attended by 20 members, including a representative of the union’s national executive committee.

An update published by PCS claimed that “the strike has already led GDS into a coding freeze”.

The union indicated that this means developers at the digital unit are currently prevented “from making changes to how the GOV.UK website works, because new features could introduce new bugs and issues, which need [the] support” of the specialists currently on strike.

In response to an enquiry from PublicTechnology, a government spokesperson indicated that, in spite of PCS’s claims, work on potential upgrades to the government website is ongoing.

“Industrial action should always be a last resort but we have plans in place to keep essential services, such as GOV.UK, running during this period,” the spokesperson added. “Despite the industrial action we will continue to work on improvements to GOV.UK.”

The action being taken by GDS staff this week forms part of a PCS-led programme of “strategic, targeted strikes” over the next month, in which more than 100,000 officials are taking part.

This includes a five-week walkout by HM Passport Office staff that began yesterday, eight days of action by driving examiners scheduled for later this month, and a mass one-day strike on 28 April encompassing more than 130,000 workers across the civil service and the wider public sector.

PCS is demanding “a 10% pay rise, pensions justice, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms”.

In a letter sent on Friday to Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin, general secretary Mark Serwotka said that, following a meeting between the two in January, the union has been expecting the imminent commencement of pay talks with government.

“You have the capability to prevent [the disruption] by sitting down with PCS and working out a settlement,” the letter said. ““When we met, you led us to believe, as have your officials in the weeks since then, that serious negotiations to resolve this dispute would take place but, weeks later, they still have not begun.”

Sam Trendall

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