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Posted on 30 January 2012 at 12:06 GMT

PCS members in HMRC strike on 31 January

Public services - not private greed!

Around 20,000 PCS members in HMRC (Revenue and Customs) are taking strike action against the introduction of the private sector into contact centres.

Union members understand this is the beginning of an agenda of privatisation and potential outsourcing that will ultimately lead to cutting jobs and slashing wages and conditions, as well as a way of taking thousands of HMRC workers out of the civil service pension scheme.

This strike correctly marks a raising of the stakes by PCS, coming on the back of the more limited action in December and earlier this month.

It sends a real message to HMRC management and the government that workers are prepared to fight their attacks.

So far the response from members has been impressive, particularly in the contact centres, where members have an acute awareness of how threatening these moves are to the future of civil service jobs in HMRC.

However, more needs to be done to bring workers from the processing areas up to the same level of understanding by bringing home to them that unless this is defeated, then all HMRC members are in danger.

If management continue to implement their proposals, then the union needs to draw up a plan of escalating the action, coordinating with PCS members in other civil service departments where possible and taking that to the members for endorsement. One way could be to use the upcoming AGMs to convince members to back this strategy.

This struggle shows the correct approach of the national leadership of PCS in ensuring that the national campaign encompassed a wider range of issues including job cuts and privatisation, as well defending pensions.

Socialist Party members have played a key role in the union, working alongside others in PCS Left Unity, to help ensure that PCS has acted as the backbone in coordinating action across unions.

This was a major factor in getting up to 2 million public sector workers to take action on 30 November.

Unfortunately, unions like Unison and GMB have retreated from this united front. PCS is attempting to build for further coordinated action in March alongside those unions that have refused to sign up to the government's pensions deal.

Further strike action on the scale of 30 June when 750,000 workers took action could be used to appeal to members of Unison and GMB to put pressure on their leaders to re-join the struggle.

If the government is forced to retreat on pensions, it would also give public sector workers a big boost of confidence to fight back against the other aspects of the Con-Dems' cuts programme such as redundancies, office closures and privatisation.

Rob Williams

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