Socialist Worker

Civil servants: Strike rattles New Labour

Issue No. 1773

The strike for safety in job centres around Britain is hitting New Labour. The government is so worried about the effects of the strike that Tony Blair had to meet PCS leaders on Monday of this week.

Over 50,000 staff in the PCS civil servants' union who work in Britain's job centres are to be balloted to take strike action to join 2,500 workers already out in the new Pathfinder offices. Pathfinder staff in Brent and Streatham in London have been out for over eight weeks over the removal of safety screens at work.

They were joined on indefinite strike last week by hundreds of workers in the around 50 other Pathfinder offices. The national ballot will begin on Tuesday of next week. If it is successful every job centre in the country could be striking for a number of days in December.

The government is so desperate to break the strike that it is paying staff willing to cross picket lines an extra £14.22 a day, a confidential government document obtained by the Guardian reveals. They are also paid £35 overnight allowance, and given an hour's reduction in the working week and a day off in lieu.

'These are the worst private sector tactics of ten or 20 years ago, not the spirit of partnership that New Labour professes to believe in,' said PCS general secretary elect Mark Serwotka.

Despite this strikebreaking there has been a high level of activity amongst strikers. On Monday morning there were 25 people on the picket line in Birmingham and 40 in Derby. On Friday of last week over 100 strikers in Bridgend in Wales attended a mass meeting.

'The mood's been very good,' said a striker in Aberdeen. 'At the office where I work 95 percent of people are out. It's been a big success. There are 30 or 40 people picketing the three offices in Aberdeen every day. Ten workers who went in to work at the beginning of the week have now joined the strike. The feeling about keeping the screens up is very strong-but it's going beyond that. It's the way management have been treating us for the past six months. They've tried to intimidate us and force through changes in our conditions. There's a bitter feeling against management. We thought that giving people their benefits was the important thing in our job, but management are only interested in forcing people into jobs. We're not having any more of it.'

The way to win this action is to win a national ballot. PCS activists need to organise meetings to discuss the ballot in every job centre.

Phone the Leeds strike centre on 0113 200 5300 to get in touch with strikers.

Inland Revenue

Civil Servants in the PCS union in the Inland Revenue have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over this year's pay offer.

They have voted by 17,688 to 9,007 to take part in strike action, and by 22,390 to 4,401 to take action short of striking.

The action short of striking was due to start on Friday of this week. This involves an overtime ban and a flexi-protest, which means all workers will leave by 4pm.

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Article information

Sat 3 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1773
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