Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/369/6048
For A One-Day Public-Sector Strike
ON 5 November, 300,000 civil servants, members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), are striking in defence of their jobs and working conditions.
This will be the first time for many years that so many civil servants have come together to act as one fighting organisation.
The New Labour government, like the Tories before them, have made it abundantly clear that privatisation is what they are about in the public sector. The civil servants are in the front line of the fight to save what is left of the public sector. Therefore, their fight is the cause of the whole working class.
The PCS, led for the first time for many years by a fighting democratic leadership, is intent on defence of its members' interests. New Labour ministers and the top civil service managers know that they have to defeat the PCS before they can go on to attack the rest of the public sector.
When Gordon Brown announced that 104,000 civil servants would lose their jobs he hoped, unbelievably, that this would be a vote winner. It is - amongst the fat cats of big business and the rest of the parasites who live off the backs of the working class!
But New Labour did not take into account the willingness of hundreds of thousands of, in the main, low-paid workers to fight back. The strike of 5 November is a massive warning shot across the bows of New Labour - that they will not get away with attacking civil servants with impunity.
The only thing that this government recognises is action, and the strike delivers this in the best possible way. But all those participating also know that, by itself, the strike will not be enough to make the government do a U-turn or even to make sufficient changes to their plans over the negotiating table.
After 5 November the question will increasingly be posed as to how the dispute can be widened to other public sector workers and the trade union movement as a whole.
The PCS under its present leadership, including members of the Socialist Party, have played a tremendous role. That is because they have the confidence that workers are willing to struggle if they think that they will not be let down by their leaders. For too long union leaders have bent the knee to the bosses.
At the TUC in September, the other union leaders were falling over themselves to give verbal support to the PCS. Now the union can rightly demand that verbal support be turned into action.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the biggest public sector union UNISON, has raised the possibility of industrial action over the threats to worsen the pension rights of his members in local government. The teachers' leaders have hinted at the same.
The PCS will be contacting other public sector unions through the TUC or, if they drag their feet for too long, directly. They will ask for a conference of trade union executives to discuss common action over pensions, job losses and other issues that are common across the public sector.
That conference should agree a programme of joint action in defence of the public sector. This should include naming the date for a national day of action, including industrial action, against the government's attacks on the public sector. The Socialist Party believes that there will be massive support amongst millions of ordinary workers for a programme of action along these lines.
Civil service workers have demonstrated in action that they are willing to fight if given a lead. Now it is the time for all public sector workers to be united in action.
The 5 November strike can be an historic turning point in the struggle to reverse the pro-market, pro-capitalist policies of this rotten government.
In The Socialist 6 November 2004:
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