The Socialist 4 April 2007 |
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Civil service pay
London strikers close passport office
STRIKING PCS members shut down the head office of the Identity and Passport Service on 30 March in London. Management put up a sign cancelling all appointments for the day.
Pickets were confident and resolute. Vince Maple, group assistant secretary for IPS, explained:
"We are on strike because of the imposition of below-inflation pay rises. There's 2,000-plus members on strike in IPS and about 1,600 in the MOD. All the rest of PCS are taking action short of strike today. It'll be a good day on our picket today - the former chair of the branch always brings his guitar!
"There are 700 civil servants at this office, but because it's the HQ there's also around 200 consultants and 'interims'. Some of them are paid up to £2,100 a day - that's £4.86 a minute! By the time you've read this interview they've earned £4.86. The pay rise for a grade AA for a whole year is the equivalent to 68 minutes' work for a consultant.
"This is our third day of strike action in six months, so for some of the lowest-paid it's a lot of money to lose. But members have stayed solidly behind it. We all know that if we're to deliver a 'world class standard service', as we are constantly told, it entails our pay at least keeping up with inflation.
"Today really is building up for 1 May. All the PCS should be out on May Day, which should be very good.
"Members know this won't be won by one-day strikes alone. It takes a proper campaign. There's a political campaign as well. A lot of members are talking about calling for a five-day strike in the summer - that would have a big impact in the passport office. We as the group executive will be driven by what members say.
"Mark (Serwotka) and Janice (Godrich) are extremely supportive. No one wants to go on strike and the national leadership know that."
Vince also spoke about the Labour Party. He sees John McDonnell's leadership campaign as: "make or break time. If he doesn't win, that's it - there's a lot of us that will be leaving the Labour Party." Along with other pickets, Vince signed the declaration of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party and hopes to get along to the CNWP conference on 12 May.
ON 30 March, thousands of PCS members working in the Land Registry and other government departments, started a month of industrial action short of strike action. This is part of their pay campaign, after a below-inflation pay rise in 2006.
Dave Lunn, PCS chair, Birkenhead (Rosebrae) Land Registry branch, personal capacity
Reports from the Treasury hint that the 2007 pay offer is likely to be less than 2% (while the RPI is currently running over 4.5%). This will once more amount to a pay cut in real terms and must also be resisted.
The campaign also seeks to change an unfair method of pay calculation in the Land Registry, whereby many members needing to take unpaid domestic leave or taking strike action end up being deducted significantly more than colleagues in the majority of other government departments.
This action is also linked to the PCS national campaign in defence of pay, jobs and public services, which saw over 200,000 PCS members taking strike action on 31 January.
PCS members take great pride in the quality services that they provide to the public and it is demoralising when the employer demands more and more from them while at the same time cutting their pay.
The day before the action was due to take place, Land Registry management issued an email to staff threatening them with disciplinary action. This is despite the action being called as a result of a legal ballot and our members being protected by employment law.
Although members are understandably concerned about management's bullying tactics they have still enthusiastically supported the action.
If management try to follow through on their threats then PCS must respond with the full weight of the national union to defend members and reps.