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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 July 2010

PCS: a strategy to stop the cuts

PCS members striking against Labour's cuts, photo Paul Mattsson

PCS members striking against Labour's cuts, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The PCS civil servants union's national executive committee (NEC) has met to discuss how to respond to the Tory/Liberal coalition government's cuts and privatisation programme.

John McInally, national vice-president Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), personal capacity

Announcements of cuts of up to 25% in government departmental budgets were rapidly followed by instructions to plan on the basis of 40% cuts.

This is a cynically designed 'shock and awe' tactic meant to terrify the wits out of workers and unions and condition them into accepting massive cuts in the hope that even worse can be avoided. It is also intended to give the signal that no area is safe and none will be 'ring-fenced' against the cuts and privatisation programme.

PCS believes these cuts are not inevitable, that there is an alternative and, in order to defeat them, the trade union movement must show a lead and campaign to organise all forces in society opposed to this assault. PCS calls on all other trade unions to take action against these attacks on the public sector and working people.

Central to the PCS campaign is our demand for a major national demonstration in the autumn around the time that the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is announced. (See below).

The Scottish TUC has announced a week of mobilisation against the cuts, culminating in a demonstration on 23 October. PCS demanded at the TUC General Council on 20 July that a demonstration is also held in London on that date.

The TUC can potentially attract millions to such an event, which would have two principal functions, to act as a warning to Cameron and Clegg that to proceed with the cuts will meet with the determined opposition of the working class, but also to build solidarity in action and galvanise workers for the struggle ahead. PCS is also calling for a day of action on 20 October, the day the CSR is announced.

PCS will continue to work with all other groups opposed to the cuts and committed to public services, including the National Pensioners Convention, disability and welfare groups and of course, other trade unions.

Within the union itself different departmental groups, like the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will closely cooperate on issues around welfare and taxation.

Poverty review

The union will also explore the possibility of carrying out an alternative poverty review, as well as the possibility of a national event, or conference with other unions and campaigning organisations to publicise and build support for the alternative to the cuts.

The threat of further attacks on pensions is not just an issue for public servants, but for all workers and requires a united, determined response from the whole movement with coordinated campaigning and industrial action if required.

The government is determined to make us lower our expectations on the absurd basis that 'we are all in it together' to impose pay freezes, which when inflation is running at 5%, is a depression in living standards that no low-paid public sector worker can afford.

We reject the pay freeze and will organise to defeat it - but the best way of doing that and defeating the cuts and privatisation too is to build the widest possible public sector trade union alliance, committed to joint campaigning, including joint industrial action.

PCS will work hard to build the type of Public Sector Alliance in every town and city, regionally and at national level that is required if we are to defeat these assaults. That also means working in our local communities, setting up local anti-cuts committees. Whenever a library or other local facility is under threat the unions must be there, leading the campaign, generalising the struggle and building the movement against the cuts.

This government can be defeated in their plans to make working people pay for their crisis, but the TUC must be more than acting as an arbitration and counselling service. The PCS NEC has decided that, in the light of the massive cuts already announced by the government, the invitation to David Cameron to address the TUC conference should be rescinded.

There are millions of workers in their workplaces and communities looking for a lead. With a properly organised, determined campaign, including coordinated industrial action, the attacks can be halted.

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