Socialist Worker

Mark Serwotka: 'We need to do everything to get united action'

Issue No. 2056

Some 300 trade unionists attended the East London Teachers Association initiated, 'Fight the government's pay freeze' rally last week. The event, brought together public sector trade unionists.

It was addressed by Mark Serwotka the general secretary of the PCS union, Mark Baulch from the CWU executive, Bill Greenshields, NUT vice-president, and Unison London convenor Alan Jarman.

Mark Serwotka told the meeting, 'The government is acting in the most utterly disgraceful way and they should be ashamed.

'In the PCS for the last two and a half years, we have had to organise a campaign the like of which we have never had to consider before.

'That's because the government's own workforce in the civil service has been attacked in a way that would have made Margaret Thatcher blush.

'They are seeking to make 104,000 job cuts in three years.

'We've had attacks on our pensions. Now we have attacks on our pay. The civil service has some of the lowest paid public sector jobs. We have over 20,000 members earning the national minimum wage.

'We have 25 percent of civil servants on less than £15,300 a year, 54 percent on less than £20,000 and 83 percent on less than the average wage in this country.

'We now have a government which says that on top of those poverty pay rates, we expect you to take a pay rise that is half the rate of inflation. At the same time, they are introducing regional pay for the first time ever in the civil service.

'Our members have decided that they just can't accept this. And they have been prepared to fight and to take action to defend jobs, to defend public services and to defend their incomes.

'So we have had three national civil service strikes in the last three years.

'But we have always recognised that while we are prepared to fight ourselves, it is obvious that if other people fight at the same time, we are in a much stronger position.

'What Gordon Brown has done with his outrageous attacks on public sector workers, is he has given us a chance to unite.

'Those who believe that Brown becoming prime minister on 24 June is going to bring a new dawn – and an end to our problems – are wrong.

'All the things we talk about that we want to strike against are not Tony Blair's policies – they are the policies of Gordon Brown.

'It is no longer enough for us to say that we agree that Brown is doing the wrong thing. The point is what are we going to do about it?

'The PCS has already written to every public sector union to seek urgent meetings with the leadership of those unions to talk strategically about can we campaign together.

'We have had replies already and agreements to meet from the GMB, the NUT, Unison, Prospect, the FBU and the NASUWT.

'The meetings between the leaderships are important. But the best way to make sure that those meetings come out with some agreement is if everybody in the union knows that when they meet, if their activists and members are coming together and making common cause, it is more likely we will reach an agreement.

'We all know that united action is in our interests. We all know the attacks are the same and therefore we need united action.

'We need to do everything we can to get that action. That doesn't mean we can click our fingers and tomorrow we will have united action.

'But I think that it is absolutely achievable that we can work together so that when we get through the summer, the education unions, Unison, PCS and others will have a coordinated campaign of industrial action.

'We are meeting the CWU to see if it is possible to have coordinated industrial action between our unions on the basis that it is in our interests to put more pressure on our employers.

'Think what that would mean in health, in education, and every other part of the public sector – it would show what is possible. Gordon Brown is treating our members in a disgraceful way.

'What better way for him to become prime minister from our point of view than if the day he gets the keys to Number 10, we say we're not putting up with it and that he must change course or face united industrial action. Let's make it possible.'

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Wed 20 Jun 2007, 10:53 BST
Issue No. 2056
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