Socialist Worker

Stepping up the pressure over public sector pay

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2103

Over 270,000 members of the PCS civil service workers’ union are set to throw their weight behind the public sector pay revolt.

Delegates to last week’s PCS conference in Brighton voted overwhelmingly to ballot the union’s membership in the public sector for national strikes.

They also made it clear they want to co-ordinate action, if possible, with other unions.

This follows the tremendous success of joint strikes on 24 April when over 100,000 PCS members struck alongside teachers, lecturers, Birmingham council workers and Shelter charity workers.

There was little sympathy among delegates for the crisis-ridden Labour government, which is trying to slash 100,000 civil service jobs, closing offices, pushing privatisation and attacking pay.

Many believed it is now time to step up the pressure on the government.

Other key groups of workers are moving towards action over pay. The Unison union is balloting its 600,000 members in the NHS, and is about to begin balloting its 800,000 members in local government in England and Wales over strikes.

The Unite union is also balloting members in local government for strikes and the GMB union is consulting members over this question.

Strikes

In Scotland Unite, GMB and Unison in local government are all balloting for strikes against a separate below-inflation pay offer. Scottish council workers in the Ucatt building workers’ union are set to start a rolling programme of strikes from next Monday.

The UCU lecturers’ union has called a strike of its 7,000 members in further education colleges in London on 9 June. This is the day of the TUC lobby of parliament.

The NUT teachers’ union has also threatened to take further action over pay.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, told PCS conference, “No one who attended the demonstrations on 24 April can have failed to be enthused as people from different unions walked shoulder to shoulder.

“It was a glimpse of what can be achieved if we can get other unions to join us. If we take action together we are far more likely to make the government change course.”

Keith Crane, from Defra London branch, said, “Gordon Brown is attacking the whole public sector. He wants to reduce the civil service workforce to 1945 levels.

“We need the maximum unity locally as well as nationally to beat these attacks. I spoke in three NUT teachers’ union branches in the run-up to our national strike last year.

“I witnessed the inspiration our action gave them. Teachers’ enthusiasm and energy on 24 April then inspired me.

“We should get NUT members to speak at our branches to get their enthusiasm into our offices.”

Action

Serwotka told a press conference after the conference vote, “Any action will be faster paced than previously. We will also be bringing out groups of workers in departments on different days to have a bigger effect.”

Christine Blower, the acting general secretary of the NUT, brought solidarity to the conference as did NUT president Bill Greenshields.

The message of unity went down very well with PCS activists.

Mark Benjamin, the PCS branch secretary of Harrow Revenue & Customs, told Socialist Worker, “We must campaign with other unions, just as we did on 24 April, to win better pay.”

Paul McGoay, the president of the Identity and Passport Service group, told Socialist Worker, “We are in a real struggle with Gordon Brown, the treasury and the pay cap.

“The next phase is to take on the treasury directly. The motion that passed will help us do that.”


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