The national strike involving tens of thousands of members of the PCS civil servants' union in job centres and benefits offices is hanging in the balance. The group executive committee, which runs the dispute, is calling for a one-day strike on Tuesday 2 April-the day the government's flagship Jobcentre Plus scheme is officially launched.
Workers are worried about the removal of safety screens in the merged offices. But the union's ruling national executive committee did not decide to endorse the strike call at its meeting last week. Instead it put off any decision to a meeting on Wednesday of this week.
The delay is dangerous. 'The only good thing about delaying action until April is that it gives people the opportunity to go out and win the arguments with people about why they should support the strike,' says Dave Owens, a PCS member in Liverpool. But if you don't know if there's going to be any action, what can you do?' There are still around 750 PCS members across the country on all-out strike in the trial Pathfinder offices.
Many of them are worried that the national executive committee is planning to send them back to work. 'People are solid but wary,' explains Jackie Lederer from Winchester, where around 50 people are striking. 'They've been on strike since 22 October and they don't want to return to work with no solutions.'
Talks between management and union leaders were due to take place as Socialist Worker went to press.