The coordinated strike action by over 150,000 workers in the PCS civil service workers’ union which was planned for Thursday of this week has been suspended following the offer of talks.
The strike was to hit the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Revenue and Customs and the home office.
In Revenue and Customs, where the issue was job cuts and office closures, talks are set to take place.
In the DWP, where the issue is a below-inflation three year pay offer imposed last November, management has agreed to reopen negotiations.
This represents a remarkable about face as the DWP refused the intervention of the Acas conciliation service only a few weeks ago.
The successful two day strike by PCS members in the DWP in December – when 80,000 struck – added to the threat of a strike by a large proportion of the civil service on the same day has concentrated management’s mind.
But many activists will be frustrated that the strikes have been called off.
Management is attempting to push through a pay deal that consigns tens of thousands of workers to poverty pay.
The pay deal imposed in the DWP means some workers stand to have their pay frozen for three years as the DWP has no progression system for people to move up the pay scales.
The PCS group executive in the DWP will also be seeking to use the talks to obtain an agreement preventing compulsory redundancies and to protect the right of workers to flexible working.
This is under severe threat in some parts of the DWP, especially in the Job Centre Plus call centre directorate, where there could be a separate dispute over this issue, and in the Child Support Agency.
The union should not let the talks drag on and if we do not get real concessions we should reinstate the action. We need to prepare the members for further strike action.
The decision of the NUT teachers’ union to ballot for action over pay shows the possibility of coordinated strikes of different unions, including the PCS, in the future.
In a separate dispute, PCS members in south Cumbria will be seeking support for longer-term strike action to prevent the closure of job centres in Millom and Ulverston. The PCS DWP group executive will be seeking a meeting with the department to try to get the closures called off.
A strike of 200 Metropolitan Police station reception officers in the PCS union over pay, set for Monday of this week, was called off after talks were offered.