Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/365/5994
"We're Not Faceless Bureaucrats"
THE BALLOT for strike action amongst civil service workers has begun.
After Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the slashing of 104,000 civil service jobs, the main union PCS reacted by calling this ballot for a national one-day strike on 5 November.
Every trade unionist and socialist should offer support to PCS members in this battle to save jobs and services.
I AM just one of over 4,000 staff employed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea. However, the fact that so many of us work there does not make us 'faceless' and somehow disposable 'bureaucrats' despite the recent claims by government ministers about the civil service.
Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) member, DVLA Swansea
We are ordinary working-class people with real lives, doing our best to provide an essential public service that plays a key role in maintaining this country's transport infrastructure, alongside the rest of the Department of Transport.
Everyone in this country who drives or owns a vehicle depends on the DVLA being fully resourced and adequately staffed - which is now under serious threat because of the government's plans to massacre civil service jobs.
The function of the agency is to maintain accurate driver and vehicle registers, issue drivers' licenses and vehicle registration documents and enforce Vehicle Excise Duty.
Our jobs are admittedly not the most exciting or glamorous then and members of the public are not always pleased with the fact that the DVLA collects road tax! Nevertheless, the PCS's campaign to defend jobs, pensions and public services deserves full support from the trade union movement and the public.
Ultimately, there's no escaping the fact that the civil service, including the DVLA, delivers essential public services that are under direct attack from New Labour, with its announcement of 104,000 civil service job losses. A minimum of 500 jobs are threatened in the DVLA but this is likely to rise to 700 and possibly more.
Already DVLA workers face a pressurised long-hours working culture of mounting workloads, high stress levels rewarded with low pay. Many staff work almost constant overtime - seven days a week, four weeks a month, virtually all year round. This is in an increasingly desperate bid to keep up with a rising workload, due to inadequate staffing levels and to earn the extra money for a halfway decent standard of living.
The job losses at the DVLA are part of the agency's target to make 5% 'efficiency' savings over the next few years. This includes reducing the amount of sick days workers take by one day per person by 2005. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this will make unbearable the already terrible situation stressed-out DVLA staff face if we accept it without a fight.
The DVLA is the largest employer in Swansea by a long way. The job losses here, including the threats to the pensions centre which employs 600 workers, the job centre and benefits office are a price the city cannot afford to pay.
The DVLA was originally opened in Swansea in the 1960s because the city was identified as an unemployment blackspot - that's why it's so important that we fight these job losses.
Management originally claimed that the jobs could be cut through 'natural wastage' with no compulsory or voluntary redundancies - by not replacing those expected to retire and having a 'recruitment freeze'.
This obviously represents a loss of future jobs for school leavers. Shamefully the right-wing leadership of the DVLA branch of the PCS initially agreed with management and told members not to worry!
However, members and supporters of PCS 'Left Unity', including Socialist Party members, were prepared to challenge this. We are doing our best on the ground to build the excellent PCS national campaign against the job cuts, an integral component being the ballot for a one-day national strike on 5 November.
Unlike the local branch leadership, we are in touch with the real mood of frustration and anger of DVLA workers - we think the potential is definitely there for DVLA members to vote 'yes' for the strike action.
We are committed to building for this and explaining the real issues to our co-workers. We are also trying to convince non-PCS members to join and get involved in a determined fightback that can win.
Copies of a Socialist Party leaflet for civil servants are available from firstname.lastname@example.org
Post: PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD
Tel: Bill Mullins on 020 8988 8764
In The Socialist 9 October 2004:
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis