The Socialist 9 October 2004 |
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"We're Not Faceless Bureaucrats"
THE BALLOT for strike action amongst civil service workers has begun.
After Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the slashing of 104,000 civil
service jobs, the main union PCS reacted by calling this ballot for a national
one-day strike on 5 November.
Every trade unionist and socialist should offer support to PCS members in
this battle to save jobs and services.
I AM just one of over 4,000 staff employed by the Driver and Vehicle
Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea. However, the fact that so many of us work
there does not make us 'faceless' and somehow disposable 'bureaucrats' despite
the recent claims by government ministers about the civil service.
Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) member, DVLA Swansea
We are ordinary working-class people with real lives, doing our best to
provide an essential public service that plays a key role in maintaining this
country's transport infrastructure, alongside the rest of the Department of
Everyone in this country who drives or owns a vehicle depends on the DVLA
being fully resourced and adequately staffed - which is now under serious
threat because of the government's plans to massacre civil service jobs.
The function of the agency is to maintain accurate driver and vehicle
registers, issue drivers' licenses and vehicle registration documents and
enforce Vehicle Excise Duty.
Our jobs are admittedly not the most exciting or glamorous then and members
of the public are not always pleased with the fact that the DVLA collects road
tax! Nevertheless, the PCS's campaign to defend jobs, pensions and public
services deserves full support from the trade union movement and the public.
Ultimately, there's no escaping the fact that the civil service, including
the DVLA, delivers essential public services that are under direct attack from
New Labour, with its announcement of 104,000 civil service job losses. A
minimum of 500 jobs are threatened in the DVLA but this is likely to rise to
700 and possibly more.
Already DVLA workers face a pressurised long-hours working culture of
mounting workloads, high stress levels rewarded with low pay. Many staff work
almost constant overtime - seven days a week, four weeks a month, virtually
all year round. This is in an increasingly desperate bid to keep up with a
rising workload, due to inadequate staffing levels and to earn the extra money
for a halfway decent standard of living.
The job losses at the DVLA are part of the agency's target to make 5%
'efficiency' savings over the next few years. This includes reducing the
amount of sick days workers take by one day per person by 2005. It doesn't
take a genius to work out that this will make unbearable the already terrible
situation stressed-out DVLA staff face if we accept it without a fight.
The DVLA is the largest employer in Swansea by a long way. The job losses
here, including the threats to the pensions centre which employs 600 workers,
the job centre and benefits office are a price the city cannot afford to pay.
The DVLA was originally opened in Swansea in the 1960s because the city was
identified as an unemployment blackspot - that's why it's so important that we
fight these job losses.
Management originally claimed that the jobs could be cut through 'natural
wastage' with no compulsory or voluntary redundancies - by not replacing those
expected to retire and having a 'recruitment freeze'.
This obviously represents a loss of future jobs for school leavers.
Shamefully the right-wing leadership of the DVLA branch of the PCS initially
agreed with management and told members not to worry!
However, members and supporters of PCS 'Left Unity', including Socialist
Party members, were prepared to challenge this. We are doing our best on the
ground to build the excellent PCS national campaign against the job cuts, an
integral component being the ballot for a one-day national strike on 5
Unlike the local branch leadership, we are in touch with the real mood of
frustration and anger of DVLA workers - we think the potential is definitely
there for DVLA members to vote 'yes' for the strike action.
We are committed to building for this and explaining the real issues to our
co-workers. We are also trying to convince non-PCS members to join and get
involved in a determined fightback that can win.
Copies of a Socialist Party leaflet for civil servants are available from
Post: PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD
Tel: Bill Mullins on 020 8988 8764