Along with tens of thousands of civil service workers in the PCS union I am gearing up for a major day of strike action on Thursday of next week.
The strike will be a sign of the growing resistance to Gordon Brown’s policies of pay cuts and mass job losses.
Civil service workers are at the sharp end of Brown’s neoliberal attack on the public sector. But we are resisting.
Over 200,000 of us struck on two days last year. And over 80,000 in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) struck for two days in December.
The result of the industrial action ballot of PCS members in Revenue and Customs over job cuts was to be announced on Wednesday of this week.
If the ballot is successful then PCS members in Revenue and Customs plan to strike on Thursday 31 January. PCS members in the DWP and the home office plan to strike on the same day over the imposition of their pay offer.
Thursday 31 January is an important day in the Revenue and Customs calendar as it is the deadline for receipt of self-assessment tax forms.
Revenue and customs offices are closing and jobs are being lost. The department plan to have closed 250 offices and cut 25,000 jobs by 2011. So far 13,000 jobs have been lost.
This has meant that those of us who are left are working under increased pressure.
Overtime is being offered in many areas to cover over the cracks and try to keep the service running. But it is clear that staffing shortages are having a major impact on service delivery and working conditions.
At the end of 2007 there were a series of unofficial walkouts in offices that are threatened with closure and in contact centres where management are attempting to withdraw all flexible working rights from staff.
Revenue and Customs was at the centre of a scandal last year over the loss of CDs that contained personal and banking details of 25 million people.
The PCS has been warning that the relentless “efficiency” measures would lead to disaster.
At the same time millions has been paid out to private sector consultants to come up with new efficiency measures. But this scandal is only the tip of the iceberg.
The cabinet office watchdog recently announced that Revenue and Customs is among the poorest performing government departments.
Parliamentary questions have been tabled over a number of failings including huge processing backlogs in critical areas such as VAT registration, self-assessment and child tax credits.
Our union is demanding guarantees over job security, working conditions, proper levels of staffing and a review of the office closures plans as well as a reversal of the planned privatisation of security staff.
The day of action next week will be an important one. But it needs to be backed up by further action. An overtime ban is planned in both Revenue and Customs and the DWP.
A number of other departments in the PCS are planning action or moving towards a ballot for strikes, mainly over pay but also over other issues.
Some 200 reception officers in the PCS working for the Metropolitan Police are set to strike on Monday of next week over plans to replace them with police community support officers.
The union needs to look to take action with other public sector unions over Gordon Brown’s pay limits for workers.
Socialist Worker supporters at last week’s PCS national executive meeting argued for further national action to be called by the union. However the national executive decided not to call this action at present.
But this is the kind of action needed, coordinated with other groups of workers such as the teachers [see right] if possible, if we are to win what is turning out to be a bitter battle against the neoliberal destruction of our public services.
Expected to strike on Thursday 31 January
- Department for Work and Pensions, including:
Job centres, benefits offices, Child Support Agency offices, pension centres
- Revenue and Customs, including tax offices
- Home office