Unions are calling for a 5% pay rise after following seven years of pay freezes or maximum 1%-a-year pay rises for millions of workers.
Four unions tabled motions to this week’s Trades Union Congress in Brighton calling for some kind of nationally coordinated action, which were then included in a composite motion.
The composite motion, among other measures, called for “immediate steps to develop a coordinated strategy of opposition to the pay cap… including… pay demands, campaign activities, tactics, ballots and industrial action”.
The motion was passed unanimously.
The leader of one of the unions, the Public and Commercial Services union’s Mark Serwotka, made a passionate plea for action.
Mr Serwotka said PCS members had endured a 10% pay cut because of the cap, one that will rise to 20% by 2020 if it is not lifted.
He called on the TUC to coordinate collective action and campaigns, including industrial action, to end public sector pay restraint across the UK.
He said: “Let’s take united action to put money into our members’ pockets and to defeat this weak Tory government.
“There is a crisis in public sector pay and now is the time for action.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have coordinated ballots in the run-up to the Budget.”
Ian Murray, of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “We all know that a Tory government will give working people nothing without a fight. Now is the time to get better organised and get all of our members the pay rise they deserve.”
David Baker, of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said public sector workers should “show this government our collective strength”.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “We must commit to marching, demonstrating and lobbying – not just in Westminster, but in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh too.
“We need public events in every major city and town across the country to change the face of politics and hold Conservative MPs to account in their own backyards, and joint ballots for industrial action if all else fails.”
Gail Cartmail, of Unite, said: “Enough is enough. We will organise, we will mobilise and we will win.”
A national rally will be held in Westminster in October and the TUC is planning a meeting with the Chancellor.
Sky News understands that unions could ballot members over strike action later this year if if their demands for a 5% pay increase are not met.
The University and College Union announced on Monday that its members in further education will be consulted on industrial action.
On Sunday, Labour refused to rule out supporting nationally coordinated action over the public sector pay cap.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “The pay cap must now be lifted across the whole public sector rather than by playing one group of workers off against another.”