Socialist Worker

Striking back against Gordon Brown’s civil service axe

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2034

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s plan to slash over 100,000 jobs across the civil service will have a terrible effect on essential public services.

That is one reason why over 280,000 civil service workers in the PCS union are currently balloting to strike against the cuts, privatisation and unfair pay.

The ballot is set to close on Tuesday of next week. The union has set Wednesday 31 January as the date of the first strike action, to be followed by a two-week overtime ban.

“These cuts are already having a big effect,” Steve West, a PCS member in Kirkcaldy, Fife, told Socialist Worker.

“Social security offices in the area have been closed down. Claimants are now going into job centres where they previously could have spoken to people about their case.

“But now they’re just pointed to a phone, which they have to use to ring a call centre to provide the service.

“People are spending hours on end trying to get through and are getting frustrated. They are taking it out on those nearest to them and there has been an increase in physical and verbal assaults on staff.

“We are also facing attacks on our working conditions and Brown’s imposition of a 2 percent pay rise across the civil service. There is real uncertainty and anger among people. I think that will translate into a big yes vote for action.”

Martin Jones works at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and is a London region PCS rep. “The HSE is a very important department – its inspectors go out and visit firms and investigate accidents,” he said.

“We also try to advise employers on how to reduce work-related stress – a huge factor behind ill health in the workplace.

“The cuts at the HSE are hitting administration grades. These are the people who assist with investigations, so that inspectors can go out and do their jobs.

“In terms of employment law, health and safety is the only area in which Britain is leading in the Western world.

“A lot of employment law has been weakened in the last 25 years. If health and safety laws were to go the same way it would be a disaster.

“The HSE is a benefit to everyone, especially workers. There were around 200 workplace deaths last year. But how many are acceptable? Surely it’s none.

“It’s a basic human right that in a society where people are expected to work, they should be protected while they are there.

“If we deliver solid action on 31 January it will strengthen the HSE workers’ bargaining position over job cuts and for future negotiations over pay.”

Anne Marie Donovan works for Revenue and Customs in central London. “I’m a tax inspector working in the compliance area,” she said. “We do our best to collect money to pay for essential services such as the NHS and education. The cuts are making this more difficult.”

Build resistance to neoliberal Britain

Speak Up for Public Services

TUC organised lobby of parliament and rally
assemble Tuesday 23 January, 11.30am
Parliament Square, central London

Organising for Fighting Unions

Speaking tour with Tony Benn, Mark Serwotka, Matt Wrack and Tony Kearns (all personal capacity)

  • Sheffield – Monday 26 February, 7.30pm, Library Theatre
  • Birmingham – Monday 5 March, 7pm, Adrian Boult Hall
  • Bristol – Wednesday 14 March, 7.30pm, Council House

Public Services Not Private Profit rallies

  • Cardiff – Wednesday 24 January, 6pm, Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens
  • Glasgow – Monday 22 January, 6pm, Scottish TUC Centre,
    333 Woodlands Rd
  • Manchester – With Mark Serwotka. Thursday 25 January, 6pm, Cross St Chapel, Cross St

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Article information

Sat 20 Jan 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2034
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