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Strike against poverty deals
PCS on strike 1 May 2007, photo Paul Mattsson
Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members in two of the largest government departments, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are gearing up for possible strike action on 31 January.
Mark Baker, civil service union PCS national executive (NEC), personal capacity
DWP members took two days of strike action before Christmas in response to management's imposition of a three-year deal giving just 2%, 0% and 1% to thousands of low-paid frontline civil service workers.
These are the sort of three-year deals which Brown would like to see implemented across the public sector. The PCS NEC, which met last week, agreed to continue "to pressurise the TUC for maximum co-ordination of united public-sector pay action and continue our dialogue with other public sector unions" and to clearly "publicise our opposition to three-year pay deals that cut the real level of pay and incorrectly blame public-sector workers for inflationary pressures".
Our members are the victims of inflation not the causes of it. The NEC also agreed to organise and approach other unions about a national lobby of parliament over government pay policy.
Over 70,000 members in HMRC are also being balloted as the department ploughs ahead with plans to close up to 250 offices and slash 25,000 jobs by 2011.
With 13,000 jobs now gone and a further 12,500 to go the service has already deteriorated, as the recent data loss shows. They are increasingly reliant on agency staff, overtime and private consultants to mask the immediate impact of job losses. Offices at the heart of communities servicing the public are facing meltdown.
As a result of the national action PCS members have taken so far, the government agreed to national talks for the first time. These talks are dealing with redundancy avoidance measures, relocation and contracting issues and the question of some elements of national pay agreements for the first time in over a decade.
These negotiations are backed with a clear mandate from members that further strike action should be called if further compulsory redundancies are announced during the talks. We have always been clear that these talks alone will not deal with public-sector pay restraint.
We will continue to support specific departmental groups in pay disputes. These are growing as more offers are rejected and we will co-ordinate this action where we can for maximum effect.
Over 160,000 members taking action together on 31 January sends a powerful message to government that our dispute is not over.
The likelihood of further strike action in other departments and continuing actions short of strike, confirms that the pay issue is still live and that members are determined to carry on the fight.
The pre-Christmas strikes in DWP were among the best-supported yet after 16 days of strike action in that department since 2004.
United public-sector action over pay in 2008 needs thorough preparation. The pension age campaign showed that where such action is planned and prepared for, it can force the government to retreat.
In The Socialist 23 January 2008:
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Socialist Party campaign news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news