The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pay strike next week is set to be the “strongest yet”, say activists. The national strike by PCS union members is due for Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 March.
Workers held a solid two-day strike over the imposition of a below inflation three-year pay deal in December.
The deal would mean that around 40 percent of workers would receive a pay rise of zero percent in 2008. Average rises would be 1 percent a year over the next three years, and the lowest paid workers would receive a rise to just 24 pence above the minimum wage.
The strike in December brought job centres, call centres, benefit offices and the Child Support Agency to a standstill. Anger is growing among workers.
“People are furious over a whole range of issues, such as staff and office cuts,” Steve West, of the PCS’s DWP group executive, told Socialist Worker.
“Public sector workers face poverty. Some 25 percent of children living in poverty have one or more parents working in the public sector.”
The government’s attack on DWP workers comes at the same time as Gordon Brown spends billions bailing out Northern Rock. The cost of his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has doubled.
It is accompanied by a generalised attack on benefit claimants and the welfare state as a whole.
“The union has to strongly oppose the attacks on the welfare system,” said Dave Owens, who is also on the PCS’s DWP group executive.
“We also have to keep up the pressure over pay.
“PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka is arguing that all departments that are in dispute over pay – and there are a number of these – should strike with the teachers and lecturers at the end of April. I agree with him.”
There is now a growing mood among groups of public sector workers for a united response to Brown’s pay freeze.
“We need a national coordinated response by the union over these national attacks,” said Steve West.
“That is the way, along with coordinated action with other unions, to increase the pressure on the government.”