Public and Commercial Services (PCU) Union members that work for the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have said they are “able to and prepared to” strike for fair working conditions.

The PCU Efra group handed in a letter to new Defra Secretary of State, Steve Reed, on his first day in office on Monday (July 8).

The letter, which was signed by around 1,400 members, congratulated Reed on his new role and expressed PCS Efra members’ commitment to delivering the new government’s agenda, while stating that this “simply isn’t possible in the current pay climate”.

The letter said: “At such a critical moment, we must ensure that the workforce is equipped to face our collective challenges. 

“So, while we never want to have to resort to withdrawing our labour, we find ourselves in the position where we are able and prepared to, to achieve fair working conditions for those delivering the new government’s environmental agenda.”

In May, 85% of PCS Efra group members voted to give a mandate for strike action over PCS national demands, including fair pay and a significant shortening of the working week.

“It highlights the decline in the pay and living standards of civil and public servants, with employees in Defra Group now finding themselves nearing the national minimum wage,” the union said.

“One in 12 civil servants working across government are now forced to use foodbanks.

“At such a critical junction in the UK’s future, PCS Efra committed to ensuring the workforce is equipped to face the nation’s collective challenges.

“Even if this means having to resort to taking action so that they can deliver the new government’s environmental agenda,” it added.

One union member said: “The kind of work we do is massively undervalued and has been for way too many years now. We’re being kept on the breadline and fearing the monthly bills.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the concerns that PCS has raised on behalf of their members on pay.

"We are committed to working constructively and will hold official discussions with trade unions after the Civil Service pau guidance has been published.”