Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/370/6065
Great display of solidarity
OVER 200,000 civil servants, members of the PCS union, were on strike on 5 November, against cuts in jobs, services and attacks on working conditions.
Lindsey Baker, a PCS Branch Secretary in the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) reports from Sheffield.
THE STRIKE at DfES Sheffield started at midnight on 5 November when security guards stopped work. Pickets started arriving at 6.30am to stop the post and other deliveries.
25 members turned out for picketing duty in a magnificent display of solidarity. These were not just branch officials but ordinary members angry at the attack on jobs, pensions and sick pay.
Our branch had been very active in the run-up to the strike, issuing a leaflet each week for five weeks. The hard work paid off! We gained more members on the day because some people signed up on the picket line.
At 10.30am all the pickets gathered and marched to the rally, singing and chanting behind the branch banner. Marion Lloyd, Socialist Party member and also on the PCS national executive (NEC) gave an inspiring speech pledging the NEC's commitment to winning our dispute:
"It's a strange world where 'dealing with tax avoidance' means letting them off the hook by cutting tax enforcers. 'Making public services more efficient' means reducing public access. 'More choice' means only for the rich and not for the poor."
She listed the next stages of the campaign:
"We'll be demonstrating in Gordon Brown's constituency before Christmas. We'll be leafleting the general public each Saturday between now and Christmas. And we're calling for a meeting of all union executives across the TUC.
"It is now time for all public sector workers to be united in action against these attacks. We must agree a united campaign in defence of jobs, pensions and services."
Stop this jobs slaughter!
AROUND 7,000 civil servants took strike action in Swansea. The DVLA and the Pensions Centre had picket lines on all its sites with Socialist Party PCS members and supporters leading the picketing. They spoke to Alec Thraves and Sheila Caffrey.
"While many stayed away at the DVLA, unfortunately hundreds went to work. This was definitely due to the fact that the right-wing branch leadership did next to nothing to build for the strike. On sections where we campaigned for strike action and explained the issues, the vast majority came out on strike".
This was the case at Swansea's Land Registry where 200 out of 230 came out on strike and the Pensions Centre, where most stayed away!
Almost 100 strikers came to the midday rally to hear John McInally, PCS National Executive Committee (NEC) member, stress the determination of the executive to stop this jobs slaughter.
One of the best responses from the audience was when Alec Thraves, speaking on behalf of the trades council, said in attacking New Labour that "A growing number of trade unionists, like himself, John McInally, Janice Godrich, PCS president and Chris Baugh, PCS deputy general secretary, all Socialist Party members, were campaigning for a new mass workers' party to replace New Labour before they destroy our public services".
A PCS campaign co-ordinating committee has now been established and is bringing together all the different departments to prepare for the next stage of the dispute.
AT THE rally in Cardiff, Katrine Williams, DWP Wales secretary and Socialist Party member understood the anger of members best of all.
"If the government was serious about saving money in the civil service then they would cut the £3 billion being paid to private consultants" she declared to loud applause.
And she pointed out "we defeated the Tories' proposals to close over 50 DWP offices in 1993 and now we will defeat New Labour's plans to close over 60 offices, because this time we are even more determined and better organised". 1,500 civil servants have joined PCS in Wales since the government's plans were announced.
On the picket lines new activists joined union officials. At the Inland Revenue where 200 jobs are under threat, the normally packed car park was half empty as the strike really bit. One of the pickets pointed out that the government cuts are a joke because management has suggested spending £2 million on overtime payments because the Revenue cannot cope.
Meanwhile in Cardiff city centre Socialist Party members built support for the strike amongst the public, running a stall protesting against New Labour's cuts in services while fat-cat private companies prosper from government contracts.
In The Socialist 13 November 2004:
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