Fight for every job

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) chair
For a 24 hour public sector general strike now - Socialist Party placard on demo, photo Paul Mattsson

For a 24 hour public sector general strike now – photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The civil service union PCS has just scored an important victory in the fight against cuts. 43 of its members working in the Department for Work and Pensions were threatened with compulsory redundancy, the first time these have been threatened in the DWP. Some were due to lose their jobs on 31 January.

But the union called a ballot of all PCS members in the DWP proposing strike action if the redundancies were not withdrawn. It was not the easiest of ballots to organise across an 80,000-strong department over the Christmas period about an issue which initially affected 43 workers.

But PCS members voted by two to one for action, giving the union’s negotiators a powerful weapon to use in negotiations. Now all the compulsory redundancy notices have been withdrawn.

PCS members, like most other workers face threats to their jobs, rising workloads and pay freezes and cuts, while living costs are rising. But this victory shows that action gets results. It also shows the need to build on this and other victories against the Con-Dems’ austerity agenda by coordinating strike action across the whole of the civil service. This would then be a platform to unite action across the public sector and beyond.

The PCS has called a national industrial action ballot starting on 5 February and ending on 4 March. 250,000 civil servants will have a chance to say no to the government’s attacks and organise for strike action against them.

Workers in all unions should campaign for their union to adopt a fighting strategy against the cuts. The NSSN lobbied the TUC general council on 11 December to call on it to set the date for coordinated strike action up to and including a 24-hour general strike.

The passing of the POA motion at the TUC conference in September (which we also lobbied) forced the TUC to consider this type of action.

The general council agreed that all TUC-affiliated unions would be asked for their opinions. We know that at least some unions have been writing to their branches for members’ views. Please do not pass up this opportunity to let your leaders and the TUC know what you and your members want.

The Con-Dems try to pit those on benefits against people in work. They say that benefits shouldn’t rise quicker than wages; therefore they are slashing the benefits for the most vulnerable in society. Our solution is to pay workers more, break the pay freeze and fight for a living income for all.

Recent figures from Oxfam give a glimpse of how we could pay for these: closing tax havens worldwide would yield $189 billion in additional tax revenues. Combining this with nationalisation of the banking system, utilities and major corporations would raise huge resources.

This shows that workers’ pay is the yardstick for all working class people and explains why mass strike action, properly prepared and explained, would be very popular and effective.

Vote yes for action against the pay freeze and cuts

John McInally, PCS national vice-president said: “PCS is urging members to vote YES in this ballot to send a clear message – we will no longer tolerate a pay freeze that is causing real misery nor accept cuts in terms and conditions solely designed to prepare the ground for mass privatisation.

“PCS would prefer to be fighting alongside other unions. Whatever happens PCS will implement a campaign strategy, in full consultation with activists, that will cause maximum disruption through industrial action with the aim of bringing the employer to the negotiating table.”