Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/341/5703
Fighting Back Against New Labour's Job Cuts
THE CIVIL service union PCS National Executive Committee (NEC) met last week. The news of Brown's "day of the long knives" budget statement, announcing massive job cuts across the civil service, was ringing in our ears.
Mark Baker, PCS NEC, personal capacity
The attack on the civil service through the budget and other "efficiency" reviews was the main discussion, following which a resolution to the national conference was backed unanimously by the NEC including the "Moderates".
Socialist Party member Marion Lloyd from the education department DfES, which is facing the loss of 31% of its staff, said that her workplace was "like a morgue. We called it the St Patrick's Day massacre."
"They are saying they want to cut 30,000 jobs in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but there are only 17,000 staff in total in headquarters buildings in DWP so how the hell are they going to achieve this without hammering front-line services?" she continued.
In addition to the motion to conference, urgent talks will be sought with all departments to find out more detail about their proposals.
A series of advertisements will be placed in the national press highlighting the public service which PCS members provide from the "cradle to the grave". This is aimed at softening any public perception that we are all just "Whitehall bureaucrats".
PCS members are firmly committed to providing a quality public service. If the government is serious about reducing waste and duplication in the civil service then why are there 227 different pay bargaining units instead of one? Why are they intent on raising the pension age to 65, forcing people to work longer?
The PCS NEC have called for a return to national pay and a "flexible decade of retirement" but these have been rejected. How many of Blair's coterie of advisers and spin doctors will be sacrificed in the jobs cull? Do they provide a front-line service to the public?
UNFORTUNATELY, SOME union leaders like Kevin Curran of the GMB reflect the prejudice that we are "Whitehall bureaucrats" too. Curran originally welcomed the announcement about the job cuts but when tackled by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, said they would print an apology in the Morning Star.
This article though referred only to the GMB "opposing compulsory redundancies" which ministers have not ruled out. PCS headquarters staff are themselves GMB members and many have complained to their union about the position it has taken.
We have made it clear that we will fight these job cuts with industrial action if necessary. For this to happen, PCS needs an NEC who are prepared to lead the fight. For the forthcoming elections, over 100 branches have nominated Socialist Party member Chris Baugh for assistant general secretary (AGS) and the Left Unity/PCS Democrats list for the NEC. We need to make sure they secure victory.
The NEC also supported a further round of co-ordinated strike action in various departments, over pay, on 13 and 14 April. In the Treasury Solicitors, an improved offer had been received in writing by the unions following their industrial action but just as the union was about to ballot members to accept it, Treasury officials vetoed their own department's offer!
The NEC finished with the union's Head of Finance, and Chris Baugh's opponent in the AGS election, being forced to report that a financial deficit at the beginning of the year had been turned into a surplus and paid tribute to the NEC for the turnaround in finances. An extra £1.7 million in income from over 10,000 new members has also enabled us to boost the union's campaign fund to the tune of £1.5 million.
This is a truly remarkable achievement in just eight months. The Left Unity-led NEC has concentrated on key membership campaigns instead of the internal gravy train and in-fighting that marked the previous years of right-wing control.
In The Socialist 3 April 2004:
Workplace news and events
International socialist news and analysis