Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/357/5886
Stop The Civil Service Jobs Cull
TWO DAYS after chancellor Gordon Brown announced 104,000 job losses in the civil service, the main civil service trade union, PCS, organised a lobby of Parliament on the issues of jobs, pay and pensions. PCS activists on the lobby spoke to KEN SMITH about Brown's cuts and what should be done about them.
Janice Godrich, President PCS:
THE CHANCELLOR makes the assumption that there are 'deserving' public services and 'undeserving' public services. I reject this totally.
"He recognises that there is such a thing as society - that means that all public services that contribute to society must be equally recognised and resourced.
"The announcement is a kick in the teeth to PCS members who work hard, often against a background of low and unequal pay, unreasonable performance targets and stressful working environments.
"New Labour and the Tories are holding a Dutch auction on who can cut the most jobs. That sickens members. They are angry and determined to protect jobs and public services.
"It's a myth that you can strip backroom functions without a cut to the frontline services. I, and my Democracy colleagues on the NEC along with Mark Serwotka, are totally committed to fighting these proposals.
We now have over 310,000 members in PCS. We will maximise the strength of our members, campaigning politically and industrially. National civil service-wide action cannot be ruled out."
Marc Everden, PCS activist from Brighton:
"PEOPLE IN my office were absolutely stunned when these job cuts were announced but that soon turned to anger. People described it as the final betrayal by Labour. People are up in arms at the sheer scale of the cuts.
"The question everyone is asking is what do we have to do? Who will be left to do the work? The sums are all wrong. We don't understand where the staff will be left if there's going to be that many cuts.
"People are at the end of their tether now and feel they've nothing left to lose. They're absolutely fed up at being portrayed in the press as lazy and overpaid when in fact we're one of the lowest paid groups of workers in the country.
"The general view is that the union mustn't shirk from action on this. Are we going to fight this or roll over and play dead? There's got to be an absolutely concerted fightback, not just from PCS, but from across the union movement against all the cuts happening across the public sector. That has to include if necessary all-out strike action.
"What's facing us will face other public-sector workers soon. We had three people at my workplace join the union yesterday and every week two to three new people join. In my workplace we are nearly at 100% membership now."
Katrine Williams, PCS activist from Cardiff:
"THE MEMBERS are really shocked at the scale of the cuts and see that we've got to fight back. Union membership has been going up and support for the DWP strike at the end of the month is really solid.
"The union has to make this a really public issue, getting claimants, pension groups and community groups behind us. People have to realise how deep these cuts are going to be and how much they will affect so many people."
Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary:
WE'VE USED every opportunity to highlight the damaging effect this will have both on members' livelihoods and the quality of services we provide. It completely overlooks the important social and economic contribution our members make.
"This attack is driven by the neo-liberal agenda which has been a feature of the Blair-Brown government. In order to offset spending plans that have gone awry, he's looking to make £21 billion savings. Part of this, as the Daily Mail described it, is 'a cull of civil service jobs'.
"We're not going to take this lying down. This is one of the most severe attacks on the public sector workforce we've seen under the Blair government. We will be consulting fully to prepare the most vigorous response possible.
"That will include protest action across the civil service. But as well as taking our case to the wider public we will also need to take our case to other public-sector unions at September's TUC Congress.
"Other unions have been very supportive. It has been more difficult for Brown to dress this up as all good for public-sector workers. And it is reassuring to us that all the other major unions have commented on the attack on civil servants. We're hopeful when we take our case to the TUC, which will include a call for wider public-sector action, a one-day stoppage.
"This is part of a generalised attack on public-sector conditions and jobs. It's a very politically driven attack. Brown wants to keep the spending plans he has laid out.
"He hopes that he can play on public misconceptions about the job we do. And we can't discount the fact that because we're not affiliated to the Labour Party, he sees us as more vulnerable to the type of attack that they've already tried on the FBU, along with a general hostility to public-sector unions.
"This is a test of PCS and we will need to take our case to members and demonstrate the importance of trade unionism in the modern age. We have to show we will fight this vigorously."
"We will fight back"
REACTION TO Brown's threatened cull has been just as strong in the Department of Education and Skills (DfES), as these reports show.
THE MORNING after Brown's announcement of 104,000 civil service job losses, Radio Sheffield's Political Correspondent described civil servants as 'bean counters' and 'Red Tape merchants'. He also suggested that we were highly paid.
Lindsey Baker, PCS
I was so incensed by his biased report that I rang in on my mobile to complain to the show's producer. I said they should get their facts right.
They were talking about real people with lives, mortgages and families who did jobs that matter, like making sure students in further education get financial support and childcare assistance.
The staff looking at job losses are low-paid admin and executive grades most of whom earn less than £18,000 a year and in many cases as little as £12,000. Stop kicking what you see as an easy target. We will fight back.
ANOTHER DfES worker commented: "If the government thinks it can lose 104,000 jobs due to less policy areas within central government and by working more efficiently, will the government be cutting back themselves?
"Will they be cutting the number of ministers (I think the highest of any government in history) and their costs (travel, cars, drinks, conferences, admin staff, press office staff, strategy staff etc etc) and spin doctors (special advisers, definitely the highest in history?
"Of course the spin docs are paid for by the party but the admin and other expenses (travel, lunches, laptops etc) used by them is a cost to the taxpayer and the Civil Service."
- No to New Labour's civil service jobs massacre.
- Prepare a one-day civil strike by all workers in the civil service.
- Bring together all public-sector unions to organise for a 24-hour public-sector strike in defence of jobs and services.
In The Socialist 24 July 2004:
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