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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 February 2010

Civil service strike ballot: Vote 'yes' for action

The ballot organised by the civil service union PCS for industrial action over plans to change the Civil Service Compensation Scheme has begun. The head of the civil service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, has called on members not to support the union's call to vote 'yes' to protect their contractual rights.

John McInally, national vice-president PCS, personal capacity

O'Donnell uses the fact that five other unions in the Council of Civil Service Unions (CCSU) have agreed to the latest changes proposed by the government.

Ironically, the latest changes, floated in recent negotiations, have been secured by the angry response from PCS members to the original draconian proposals and the determined negotiating stance of PCS negotiators and the national executive committee (NEC).

The leaders of some of the unions who have agreed the deal would have accepted the original proposals and at every stage, particularly the FDA and Prospect, have argued for taking whatever the government offered. This is no way to defend their members. Accepting this offer is a damaging and grave error of judgement.

PCS could not have accepted such a divisive offer. Our members are proud of the union's tradition of solidarity and unity, not for sentimental or sloganeering reasons but because campaigning, including being prepared to take industrial action as a last resort and hard negotiating from a position of strength, gets results.

While these proposals do secure greater protection for lower paid members they still leave a very large proportion of members, between 35% and 40%, unprotected and liable to huge financial detriment in the event of compulsory redundancy.

Acceptance of the 'offer' was conditional on all CCSU unions agreeing the proposals and that any industrial or legal action be abandoned. PCS rejected this attempt to divide members. It would have been entirely wrong to sign away the rights of so many members without even making an attempt to secure a settlement that offered protection to all members. A fair settlement is entirely achievable, but only if we stick together, in solidarity.

The Northern Ireland Public Services Association (NIPSA) has also rejected the proposals.

The issue here is simple - the government is attempting to tear up the contractual rights of civil servants in order to steal from us the accrued rights and entitlements accumulated over years of dedicated service. This is so they can drive through tens of thousands of job cuts and privatise services on the cheap.

O'Donnell is making the most of the agreement with the other unions (Prospect, FDA, GMB, Unite and the Prison Officers Association) in order to attack PCS. But the other unions combined represent just 20% of civil service union membership - Prospect representing about 25,000 in specialist roles and the FDA about 12,000 higher paid managers.

GMB and Unite represent small numbers of staff in the Ministry of Defence. In the case of GMB and Unite their members are largely protected by the new arrangements but the other unions are not.

PCS represents 80% of civil service trade union members, and many more in related public services, and is a 'vertical' union - it represents all grades.

Some union leaders just don't want to learn. In 2005 the same people in FDA and Prospect who have just signed up to the government's proposals told PCS that securing pension rights for existing staff was unachievable. By sticking together then the unions secured those rights without even having to take strike action.

PCS will continue to campaign for a fair settlement. The 'agreement' between the five unions is a distraction that will fool no-one. PCS's ballot is now underway and all activists are working hard to secure the best 'yes' vote possible in order to secure the type of agreement their members need and deserve.

  • The ballot runs until 25 February.
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    In The Socialist 10 February 2010:

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    Unison general secretary election

    Fighting leadership needed in Unison - Nominate Roger Bannister for general secretary

    Greenwich Unison backs victimised branch secretary

    Socialist Party news and analysis

    Preying on the living and dead

    Waltham Forest: Campaigners score a victory

    Fiddling MPs: Jail the whole lot of them!

    Vulnerable lose out on benefits

    Socialist Women: Fighting for equality through socialism

    Fast news

    Socialist Party workplace news

    Civil service strike ballot: Vote 'yes' for action

    Boycotting the 2010 SATS in schools

    Coventry youth workers' strike

    Metaldyne workers strike

    Stoke: Axiom workers in overtime ban

    Saving jobs and services in Worcestershire

    Workplace news in brief

    Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

    Hazel Blears must go

    TUSC: Wellingborough socialists make a stand

    PCS young members

    PCS young members network conference

    Bristol job centre workers fight transfer

    Socialist Party feature

    Trade unions in Britain - are they ready for the coming battles?

    International socialist news and analysis

    Northern Ireland: An agreement to cement division

    Sri Lanka President Rajapakse removes his rival, Fonseka

    Tamil Solidarity -: Successful northern conference

    Unison witchhunt

    Trotskyism on trial

    War and occupation

    Armed forces: Release Lance-Corporal Joe Glenton

    Trade union rights for service personnel


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