The Socialist 12 November 2008 |
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PCS union: Strike threat wins talks
THE NATIONAL strike by civil service union PCS over pay has been suspended as the employer, at the eleventh hour, offered meaningful talks aimed at resolving our long-running dispute. Members and activists will see this as a major, significant breakthrough which presents a real opportunity to address the chaos and injustice of civil service pay.
John McInally, national vice-president PCS
But the national union is sending out a strong message: our programme of action has not been cancelled but merely suspended; members should be prepared to take strike action if these talks do not produce the type of fair and reasonable settlement we need and deserve.
The decision to suspend the action was taken after last-minute discussions between PCS and the employer that resulted in a letter from the cabinet office secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell. The letter agreed that discussions should take place to resolve the dispute and on the basis of a 28-day extension of the period in which the union can take action. This serious approach puts us in the best possible position to reach a fair and reasonable settlement.
The Democracy Alliance national executive committee leadership in PCS, under the leadership of president Janice Godrich and general secretary Mark Serwotka, has campaigned hard against attacks on members' pay and terms and conditions. We have always been clear that our main aim is to achieve good settlements for our members.
These talks present a real opportunity to achieve the type of settlement that can go some way to address members' concerns over pay.
Our demands are: consolidated increases at least equal to the Retail Price Index; removal of progression [up the pay scales] costs from pay increase budgets; fewer separate pay negotiations; funding to remedy equal pay problems; no link between pay and performance appraisal and, an end to pressure for regional pay.
PCS reps have never worked harder to build for the strike. Every indication is that, had it gone ahead, it would have been a real show of determination and unity by members who are only demanding to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness.
Members recognise that we are in a difficult economic and political climate. But they have real trust in the Democracy Alliance leadership that, time and again, has led focussed campaigns aimed at delivering a bargaining agenda that addresses their concerns. Members trust a leadership that seeks agreements that will have a positive material impact on their day-to-day working lives.
The PCS leadership was absolutely correct to take up this offer of meaningful talks. Any other decision would have represented a cavalier and dismissive approach to the sacrifice and loyalty of members who have given such tremendous support to previous campaigns, securing deals on pensions and job losses in the process.
A satisfactory settlement on pay will mean much to civil servants and those in Non-Departmental Public Bodies, who are amongst the lowest-paid workers in the public sector. PCS is correct to engage in these talks that can deliver such an agreement.
If the management are not prepared to settle on reasonable terms, then the anger and determination of our members will be such that the campaign, including strike action, will continue until they do.