Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/322/9641
Civil servants launch pay battle: End Low Pay
IN REAL terms, civil service pay has fallen behind that of other public sector workers. Between 1992-2002 real earnings of the lowest-paid staff rose by only 3.5%-3.7% compared to 21% for nurses and 14% for primary school teachers and local government workers.
Mark Baker, PCS NEC, personal capacity
These harsh statistics highlight the need for a united civil service campaign on pay. The Socialist Party has championed the cause for a return to national pay bargaining for all PCS members across departments, agencies and the private sector. With over 170 different pay bargaining units, huge pay inequalities have emerged.
As PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said at the London rally: "An admin worker gets £9,900 per year in one department and £13,000 in another for the same job. That's a 31% difference. It's a lottery which depends on which minister is more pushy with the treasury."
PCS has won several legal cases which clearly show that all civil servants should be entitled to equal pay and conditions for work of equal value. Every legal victory is to be welcomed but on their own tribunal successes are not enough. A national pay claim, backed by a campaign of co-ordinated industrial action where possible, is needed.
PCS Left Unity, in which Socialist Party members play a leading role, has begun to build for this, with its majority on the national executive (NEC). The members' meetings called for the first week in November (see below) are a unique event in the history of PCS. When under right-wing control, the NEC never gave members the opportunity to be involved in a serious campaign to win back national pay.
Years of neglect by the previous leadership has weakened the union. So the government has been able to push through other attacks, like their attempts to steal our pension entitlements.
It was Socialist Party members on the NEC who put forward to the recent TUC conference, the idea of a day of action and national demonstration, linking up private and public sector unions with pensioners' groups. This has now become official TUC policy. But we should also prepare to defend PCS members' pension entitlements by whatever means are necessary.
We stand for:
- The return of a national pay agreement.
- Centrally determined pay rates based on the best that exist.
- Rapid pay progression to the scale maximum for all.
- A national minimum wage of £8 an hour, with no exemptions.
- The right to retire at 60 with a full pension.
- Retention of final salary pension schemes.
- The creation and building of a new mass workers' party
"We have to do all it takes to win"
PCS MEMBERS attending the 1,500-strong pay and pensions rally in central London on 3 November, spoke to the socialist:
"It's great to see all these people here. Mark Serwotka hit the nail on the head in his speech - the government has to listen to us. We have massive inequality in pay, as a result of separate pay deals but as a last resort we will have to take industrial action.
"I moved from the DWP to the Passport Office and the pay is higher here even though I do the same job as before".
Vince Maple, Passport Office
"This meeting is long overdue. The strategy laid out is correct. We have appalling problems as a result of the different pay negotiations.
"In principle I am in favour of industrial action but I think we can win by playing it clever. We should not take on additional work, we should work to rule".
Janet Donahue, Department for Education and Skills
"The campaign is way overdue. It's about time the union took a hands-on approach to the problems caused by the break up of national pay bargaining and not just leave it up to the rank and file.
"I thought the members were apathetic but the meeting today says otherwise. We have to do all it takes to win.
"We spend all our time working on the machinery of government and have no time to do a proper job in the union".
Zita, assistant secretary of Department of Trade and Industry group.
Lunchtime Pay and pensions campaign meetings are being held as we go to press, including:
6 November: Stevenage Leisure Centre, Sheffield City Hall, Birmingham and Midland Institute and Marryat Hall Dundee.
7 November: Holiday Inn Bristol, Swansea council chamber and Albert Hall Nottingham.
In The Socialist 8 November 2003: