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Strike Against Low Pay
NINETY THOUSAND PCS members in JobCentres and benefit offices in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are preparing to take more national strike action in our fight for decent pay.
Jane Aitchinson, DWP GEC member & pay negotiator
This historic struggle, in the teeth of opposition from a vicious management, is set to become a defining moment in the history of the union and the civil service. Management seem determined to resist these wholly justified strikes by which we aim to end the scourge of low pay once and for all.
DWP members have already shown that we mean business by taking two days of national strike action last month.
We are angry that, despite having some of the lowest pay in the public sector, the employers are in effect saying that any pay rises will be determined by them through a wholly discredited appraisal scheme (see below).
The union nationally is seeking to end the system of separate pay bargaining which has meant the existence of 229 separate pay deals for civil servants. The DWP dispute, along with that of other groups in the civil service, is about last year's pay claims. Soon the union will also have to lodge this year's pay demands including stepping up the pressure for one national pay deal for the whole of the civil service.
It is this campaign that will bring together the bulk of the nearly 300,000 members of the PCS in a mighty struggle to end low pay and strike a blow for all workers throughout the public sector.
A PCS activists' conference is being held on 6 March to discuss the next step. The PCS DWP group executive committee is recommending three days of national strike action on 13, 14, 15 April as well as maintaining the work to rule already taking place. If action is taken directly after Easter the department will be effectively be shut for seven days, causing maximum disruption to management.
The Hated 'Appraisal Scheme'
The PDS appraisal scheme (as it is known) has been imposed by management (along with a miserly pay increase below the level of inflation) to drive through their divide and rule tactics over workers.
Appraisal in this case means line management producing a report on each worker and handing it over to a panel of other bosses who will then decide, in secret, what grade to give and whether or not the worker will get any increase at all.
When this was done in the past, the reports where often extremely prejudiced and insulting about the abilities of individual workers. This was changed to make the report available to workers, who then had the right of appeal if they disagreed with its comments.
This meant the management had to be careful about what they wrote. But the bosses intend to make these reports secret once again and have already said that they will be used to completely determine whether or not the higher level civil servants get any pay increase at all.
It would only be a short time before they adopted the scheme for all workers and would, in effect, end our union's right to negotiate any national pay claims for our members.
In The Socialist 6 March 2004:
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