Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/503/3158
The Socialist 27 September 2007 |
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PCS prepares for more strikes
PCS's national executive committee (NEC) has unanimously voted to hold a consultative ballot of PCS members for national industrial action to stop compulsory redundancies and defend pay and conditions. National days of strike action have already taken place on 31 January and 1 May in an effort to force the employer into serious negotiations.
John McInally, PCS NEC, personal capacity
No-one's job is safe as the cuts continue, already compulsory redundancies have occurred - albeit in small numbers - in two departments, and more are threatened. Pay offers are below inflation, with some facing a total pay freeze. Regional pay is also a growing threat which will mean that workers' pay rates are dependent on where they work, rather than the work they do.
Privatisations continue, even in areas like the Ministry of Defence, where tens of thousands are under the threat of outsourcing. In the Department for Work and Pensions the government intends to privatise core welfare and benefit delivery.
All this is accompanied by attacks on terms and conditions and a speeding up of production as processes are centralised, untried and untested technology is introduced and harsh management "techniques" are applied. Cuts are also planned to the civil service Compensation Scheme to get rid of civil servants on the cheap.
PCS's demands are fair, reasonable and achievable – most of all, necessary, to defend members' interests in a period where the government and political establishment continues its ideological assault on the public sector.
Our demands are:
- A no compulsory redundancy guarantee
- Pay increases at least in line with cost of living
- A national pay system to end unfair pay that sees staff doing the same job paid vastly different salaries
- No more privatisation and outsourcing without agreements to protect the workforce
- Adequate resources and decent working conditions
- No cuts to the civil service Compensation Scheme
PCS members know that campaigning works and action gets results. Despite the ferocity of the politically driven cuts programme which has left no workplace unaffected, members have supported calls for action. Action has resulted in concessions that are real achievements, including significant agreements on avoidance of redundancy, defending pensions and paid sick leave.
Throughout July and August the union carried out a massive consultation exercise where every member had the opportunity to attend a meeting to hear an NEC or other union speaker set out the PCS strategy on the way forward. Over 25,000 members attended these meetings and the overwhelming message was support for the union's campaign work and a determination to stick with it until a settlement is reached.
PCS took its campaign to this year's TUC where PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka exposed Gordon Brown's great lie that public-sector pay was a contributory factor to inflation. He then went on to call for public-sector unity on pay and coordinated action to defeat the pay freeze. The motion was carried with no votes against. PCS is working hard to ensure that any such action is coordinated to achieve the maximum impact.
PCS already has legal authority to take national action from a ballot in January but the NEC believes members should be consulted on an ongoing basis to build maximum support for the campaign.
A 'yes' vote will mean a national one-day strike before the end of the year on a day guaranteed to have the maximum impact on the government, the media and public opinion. This will be supplemented by targeted action, particularly in the departmental Groups, who have been attempting to reach settlements on issues stemming from the cuts programme and pay freeze.
For example DWP workers, who have taken no fewer than 15 days of action since 2003 have just decisively rejected a pay offer that is below inflation.
Maximum unity is required across the public-sector trade unions to resist the unjustifiable assault on the public sector and the pay freeze. That unity needs to be built not just at the tops of the unions but in every town and city, through initiatives like the Public Service Not Private Profit campaign, the National Shop Stewards Network and the trades councils.
The £28 billion bail-out and effective nationalisation of deposits in Northern Rock shows that money is not the problem in resolving these disputes, but political will.