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PCS budget day strike: Support grows across country
PCS pickets who work on security at the Houses of Parliament were out again in force. One of the pickets who has been working there for 20 years explained that during the last strike extra police were drafted in at a cost of £300,000.
He, like other pickets is angry that Gordon Brown has demanded that the cabin crew and BA management keep talking to resolve their dispute yet Brown and members of the cabinet are refusing to talk to the PCS.
Commenting on the attacks on other public services, he said that what is needed is a general strike.
Pickets at the main Home Office building explained how privatised workers in their office had been threatened with the sack if they refused to cross the picket line.
They also mentioned that while this government is attacking civil servants' conditions they are spending £36 million a year paying off the PFI contract on the construction of the Home Office building.
There were strong picket lines at the Natural History museum and Victoria and Albert museums. Liz, a retired teacher and Haringey NUT member donated £10 to the hardship fund.
Staff walked out of the Science Museum after learning that management had brought in agency workers to break the strike. Only five experienced staff were working and agency staff had been given a map and walkie talkie to provide security in the galleries.
PCS officials contacted the Health and Safety executive who were not interested. Kensington and Chelsea environmental health disclaimed responsibility, when concerns were raised that museum management were using less than minimum numbers of experienced staff to keep it open. This was despite the fact that over 3,000 children were expected. Another PCS member reported that over 50 uniformed officers were staffing a 999 call centre in Hendon - probably on overtime. So much for "efficiency savings" !
In the North East, Alicia Crane and Elaine Brunskill spoke to PCS strikers.
At Durham's Passport Office Jeff McGough, branch secretary, was delighted with the response, telling us it was much better than last time. Jeff went on to express concern that the next government is likely to be a minority government, which could give the likes of the BNP credence. He went on to say: "This wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for the right-ward shift of the Labour Party. It's become a bosses' party, rather than a party for the working man."
Royston Palmer, a PCS workplace rep, told us that managers and the 'usual suspects' who'd crossed the picket line on the last strike hadn't made any impact - it had taken three days to clear the backlog of post.
Many of the strikers also commented on the BA strike. Royston said: "When Willie Walsh takes his pay down to the level of BA cabin crew, then he can complain. If he's not prepared to do that he can take a run and a jump."
Aurelia Smith talked about the bullying behaviour of Willie Walsh, commenting that the level BA were prepared to stoop to means a growing number of workers are starting to back strike movements. Linden Hird commented that maybe the BA strike and Passport Offices should link up their strikes: "After all - people can't go on holiday without their passport".
At the Durham Land Registry office, Neville Nattrass, branch executive committee member, told us: "The strike is going well. This is our third day out, and low paid staff are showing they are willing to sacrifice their pay to support the strike."
Richard Murray told us he was worried about being made redundant: "Where else can I go? I'm 45 years old and disabled. Also, my wife is in a similar situation. The pair of us could be made redundant. We've got an 11 year old son, but our future is really insecure."
Commenting about the picket line at Sunderland DWP office Neil Todner, branch chair, said that they had been pleased with the increased level of support, including the number of temporary staff who've joined the PCS.
Later in the day around 50 PCS strikers met up outside foreign secretary David Miliband's office in South Shields to hand in a petition against the attacks on their members. Disgracefully the office refused to accept the petition.
Wales Assembly disrupted by strike
Dylan Roberts reports from Wrexham, where PCS members were out in force again, with picket lines at the Jobcentre, tax office, a valuations office and the courts.
Support from the public was excellent and workers were joined by members of North Wales Shop Stewards Network and Wrexham Socialist Party
At Newport Passport Office after 97% of members supported the last strike, again only a trickle of staff went into work. There were pickets at the Intellectual Property and Business Statistics Office in Duffryn despite the rain starting to pour down later in the morning.
For the third time the proceedings of the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff were disrupted by the strike. Over 200 members rallied outside the Assembly building in Cardiff Bay to hear Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of PCS, Peter Harris, Wales secretary of PCS and Leanne Wood, Assembly Member, condemn the current government for its attacks on public sector workers to pay for the crisis in government finances.
Labour and Plaid Cymru members of the Assembly have been prevented from taking part in the Assembly business by the PCS pickets outside the Senedd. In the last strike the plenary session was cancelled, but this time the Liberal Democrat assembly members joined the Tories in making a point of crossing PCS picket lines.
Alec Thraves and Khalid Qassem spoke to PCS pickets in Swansea, where there were large pickets on the biggest civil service workplaces, particularly the Pension Centre and the Land Registry.
Roger Langley, PCS branch organiser at the Pension Centre, told us he was to be interviewed by ITV at lunchtime on the picket line. I will be telling them: "On budget day, our message to government is that our members are not prepared to pay the price for the bankers' crisis'!"
PCS members were in determined mood at pickets across Warrington.
Outside Hilden House, where over 600 civil servants work on pension provision, there was at least as much anger over draconian sickness and attendance policies and targets as over the government's plans to cut redundancy provisions.
At Risley a small but cheerful picket of PCS members flew the union flag outside the prison gates, getting a great reception from passing motorists.
In the prison PCS organises the administration staff and cleaners. A PCS member explained the situation: "This prison has got to find £750,000 worth of savings, which equates to staff cuts of around 10%. No wonder they want to cut our redundancy", she said. "They have even suggested replacing paid cleaners with prisoners!"
Pickets were also out at the Job Centre and Thorn Cross Young Offenders Institute.
Welcome in Worksop
The day before the strike, Ian Whyles, a retired miner and a Socialist Party member took Socialist Party leaflets into Worksop Jobcentre in Notts. The PCS rep, seeing Ian was from the Socialist Party, shook his hand and said: "We know these leaflets will give the truth. We can't believe what the papers print."
A striker at the Garston contact centre told The Socialist: "Out of 220 staff only five crossed the picket. Five managers in the crisis loan section crossed due to blackmail over their positions, as they are 'acting up' in a higher grade. They're cowards. Management have also removed union time for the reps next week."
Once again there was a fantastic response from PCS members of Land Registry Birkenhead branch. Around 25 members came to support the picket line, some of them for the first time. Members at the nearby Child Support Agency reported improved support for the action compared to the already good support they received from their members on 8 and 9 March.
The picket line outside Everton Jobcentre plus was in full swing by 7:30am. Armed with whistles, we made sure that our voices were heard. We attended the 70-strong rally in Liverpool, with a lot of noise from colleagues and comrades and flags and banners everywhere.
Steve Heyward, PCS DWP shop steward, personal capacity
A lively gathering at Victoria Square in Birmingham marched down New Street to a rally. A solidarity speaker from the NUT stated that they need to plan joint action with PCS and other public sector workers in their battle with the government.
The biggest cheers were for a speaker from the CWU who stated that every time postal workers refused to cross PCS picket lines in solidarity, they were in fact breaking the law.
The strike remained solid, with similar numbers out compared to the strike two weeks ago. At Eastgate Jobcentre, pickets reported several people joining the union after management's bullying behaviour over the strike.
A rally took place outside Leeds Combined Courts, where PCS NEC and Socialist Party member Rob Williams spoke.
PCS picket lines were strong in Gloucester and Stroud and a member in Cheltenham joined the picket line despite working during the previous strike.
Simon Smith, Gloucestershire DWP chair, said that the PCS had recruited 1,000 members during the previous month, including 25 in Gloucester.
Turnout was still fairly strong, with a significant amount raised for hardship funds from members of the FDA and Prospect unions, several of whom are considering joining PCS.
In The Socialist 31 March 2010:
PCS strike action
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review