Over 280,000 members of the PCS civil service workers’ union are gearing up for a major battle in the new year over job cuts, pay restraint and privatisation.
The national executive committee of the PCS has unanimously agreed to ballot its members for a national civil service wide strike if the government continues with its attacks.
The ballot is set to take place early in the new year with a strike planned for late January.
The government’s drive to cut jobs is ratcheting up. We are seeing compulsory redundancies in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Trade and Industry.
There has also been an announcement of 12,500 more job losses in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Chancellor Gordon Brown’s intention to hold down our pay is clear. We have already seen below inflation pay rises in nine different departments, with more facing what are effectively pay cuts.
Workers in a number of departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, are also facing privatisation.
There will be an announcement about pensions in the next few weeks, which could possibly see a cap on the employers’ contribution.
A huge assault is taking place on civil service workers. The union has decided that we have to go on the offensive over this, rather than being defensive. Waiting for the government and the employers’ next move doesn’t help our members.
Two years of talks since our last national strike over job cuts on 5 November 2004 have not changed their views.
If we want to win this dispute we will need to take more than one day of action. The union will need to be ready to follow it up with more action, including further strikes and a national demonstration.
No matter what the attacks are, the person responsible is Gordon Brown. Everything we face points back to him. Our dispute will take place as he prepares to challenge to be the next leader of the Labour Party.
He wants to continue in the footsteps of Tony Blair, keeping the unions down and following his policies. The only departments that seem to be recruiting workers at the moment are the prison service and the GCHQ spy centre.
What an indictment of this Labour government.
Paul Williams is PCS Department for Transport group president. He writes in a personal capacity.