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19 February 2013
DfE walkout - huge demonstration of anger
Robbie Faulds, PCS Education Group president
Hundreds of PCS union members in the Department for Education poured out of offices across the country yesterday as they staged a mass two-hour walkout.
They are fighting back against a vicious onslaught of job cuts, site closures and changes to terms and conditions from the government and top management in the department.
In London, over a hundred staged an impromptu protest outside the office for half an hour after the walkout, with mass pickets at the Sheffield, Darlington and Manchester sites.
Reports of tumbleweed blowing through the Runcorn office corridors have yet to be confirmed.
The strike action follows the first week of an indefinite work to rule, as union members seek guarantees over jobs during a re-organisation which will see the loss of over a quarter of the workforce.
Many feel the department is being used as an ideological test ground for wider civil service cuts, with no meaningful consultation taking place with the union over the cuts.
Sites being shut
Half the department's 12 sites are due to be closed, with decisions being made without any proper analysis.
This has descended into farce with staff from the Runcorn office being asked to move to a site which is on the site of the proposed high speed rail terminal in Manchester.
The dispute also covers an imposed performance management system which 97% rejected, as they say it is designed to stigmatise staff, is discriminatory and represents a license to allow management by fear.
The walkout represents a huge demonstration of the anger amongst the union membership, and a show of their determination to fight back against the constant attacks being waged against their jobs and the vital services the department provides.
As well as more possible action in the DfE, PCS is about to embark on a rolling programme of national industrial action over the next three months, starting with a strike on budget day in protest against the austerity measures which are crippling the economy.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 March 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.