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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 July 2008

PCS shows action gets results

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) national executive (NEC) agreed last week to a campaign of action over pay in the Autumn. Three national strikes have already won national agreements to protect members against compulsory redundancy and contracting out of their work. The clear message that will now be put to members' meetings and a ballot is that these agreements show that action gets results.

Mark Baker, PCS NEC, personal capacity

Over 100,000 PCS members took part in industrial action on 24 April alongside teaching union NUT and UCU members, to protest over Brown's 2% public sector pay freeze when the real cost of living is increasing at over 4.3%.

Unison local government members have also voted for strike action over pay on July 16-17. The prospect for this growing anger to coalesce around united strike action across the public sector is growing daily. PCS with its left leadership has been consistently calling for such action.

New Labour are urging pay restraint as we are entering into economic recession. They are talking of a return to '1970s-style militancy' causing inflation, to try and cow workers into accepting 'less than inflation' increases. However, the tanker workers' victory in securing 14% over the next two years will not have been lost on public-sector workers.

An escalation of action is required if we are to seriously challenge public-sector pay policy. Any escalation must also command the support of members. The number in favour of industrial action has increased each time in all of the four national ballots we have held in the last three years.

PCS NEC are proposing, in a national ballot to commence in the autumn, two days of national strike action before the end of the year and a further day of strike action organised in the various different sections of the union to keep the pressure on the employer over the entire period.

This would be supplemented by actions short of strike such as overtime bans etc designed to maximise the industrial impact of the action hitting key management targets and service delivery. This also retains the flexibility to call action in conjunction with other unions where possible.

United action across the public sector remains the key, so PCS will also be continuing with other campaigning and political work to highlight the injustices of government pay policy. We will continue to call on the TUC to co-ordinate united action at the same time as working closely with other unions moving into action.

At the TUC public sector pay lobby on 9 June, those like our general secretary Mark Serwotka and Brian Caton of the POA who called for joint action got the biggest applause.

PCS members have been in the frontline of some of the biggest attacks on the public sector. Hundreds of thousands of job cuts are planned by Brown's government. There is a new programme of threatened tax office closures at a time when there is now over 42 billion in uncollected taxes.

The national agreements which we have just concluded will help to prevent compulsory redundancies, but will also have whetted the appetite of our members for a fight on pay. Armed with the correct strategy and bold, confident leadership we can force further retreats from a weak and increasingly discredited New Labour administration.

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In The Socialist 2 July 2008:

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