Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/471/1988
Job cuts, low pay, privatisation...
Striking to defend public services
Picture Marc Vallee
PUBLIC AND Commercial Services union (PCS) members have voted for national industrial action across the civil service. 61,488 (61.3%) voted for strike action.
As the ballot result was announced, CHRIS BAUGH, assistant general secretary of PCS, said the union wanted to counter the caricature of civil servants and show the contribution to society they make. Calling for a united campaign in defence of the public sector he said: "We will make common cause with public-sector unions in every way possible". General secretary MARK SERWOTKA said the union aimed for an imaginative and effective campaign.
THIS IS the third national ballot that Left Unity-led PCS have won since Gordon Brown announced 100,000 job cuts in 2004.
Mark Baker, PCS national executive (NEC), personal capacity
Both previous ballots extracted concessions from the government and forced them to retreat from stopping sick pay and increasing the pension age for existing staff to 65. Despite this, the so-called efficiency drive continues as valuable public services we provide are being destroyed. Compulsory redundancies were announced in two departments before Christmas.
The action starts with a one-day strike on 31 January followed by an overtime ban. The NEC will be discussing a range of follow-up activities in consultation with members and reps.
In addition to expecting PCS members to carry on delivering a better service with less staff, the employer is seeking to attack pay levels by restricting pay increases to between 2% and 2.25%.
Over half of PCS members earn less than £20,000 a year, with a quarter of members on less than £15,000. This is at a time when company directors are taking home up to £19 billion in bonuses.
Also 16 pay offers from 2006 covering 58,000 members are still in dispute.
Our firm position in negotiations will need to be backed up by a comprehensive strategy of legal and industrial action, parliamentary pressure and continuing to build a broad alliance of public-sector unions. PCS' left leadership is determined to fight these attacks. PCS members are just as determined too.
PCS are demanding the following:
- No compulsory redundancies or relocations
- No further privatisation without negotiation and consultation
- Defend the Civil Service Compensation Scheme
- Adequate resources and decent working conditions
- A fair national pay system
TWO PCS reps explain why they are supporting the civil servants' strike action.
"I'VE WORKED in GOSW (Government Offices for the South West) for eight years. Staff morale is the lowest it's ever been. Since 2005 a third of all posts in Government Offices have been cut, mainly in the junior grades. The work has had to be done by those left behind, resulting in increased workloads, increased incidences of stress and harassment, and a massive reduction in promotion opportunities.
"Posts have been cut whilst the work carried out by the various Government Offices for various government departments still has to be delivered. GO staff are witnessing plans for work traditionally carried out by them being transferred to non civil-service 'partner' organisations."
"THE AGENCY where I work paid management consultants to implement a new computer system which slowed down the work and added more stress and pressure to staff. At the same time, more consultants were employed to restructure the Agency yet many of our staff are highly experienced and committed to their jobs and understand the important role their work plays in our communities.
"When these staff leave they are not always replaced and our colleagues keep providing the same level of service to the public with fewer and fewer resources, whilst management prepare to pay yet more consultants to review the restructuring itself.
"This is like calling out a consultant to your home and paying them to tell a plumber how to fix a leak! If one small Agency can spend this much on consultants and failed IT projects how much more is spent by bigger departments whilst they refuse to spend money on serving the public?"
"I support the strike. I feel the only people who want to protect the public services are those who work in them and use them. If we don't stand up for them, who will?"
Tracey and Bernie are both members of the PCS South West Regional Committee (personal capacities)
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