Monday 10 November will see a national strike by around 270,000 civil service workers in the PCS union. This will be the latest stage in the battle of public sector workers against Gordon Brown’s pay curbs.
The strike will involve workers in job centres, museums, the coastguard service, the home office, passports and nearly 100 public bodies.
One in five civil service workers earns less than £15,000 a year. The situation is so desperate that this month at least six government departments and agencies, including coastguards and the Office for National Statistics, had to give emergency pay rises to lift earnings above the new national minimum wage rate.
People are angry that a seemingly bottomless pit of money can be thrown at the banks while we are told that we can’t have decent pay rises.
At a time when Gordon Brown talks of fighting unemployment, he plans to cut more jobs in the civil service, with reports that 10,000 jobs are to be targeted in the Ministry of Justice and another 12,000 are to go in the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, said, “The everyday things we take for granted, from passports through to tax credits and coastguards, are delivered by hardworking civil and public servants.
“Giving these people pay rises that take their wages to just 13p or 25p above the national minimum wage is unsustainable when you face double digit rises in food, fuel and housing costs.”
Activists have to pull out all the stops to make 10 November the most powerful and successful strike that the union has ever had.
This means organising members’ meetings to put the arguments for action in workplaces in the run-up to the strike.
We also need to argue with individual members about the importance of striking. Activists from other unions should come to our picket lines to show solidarity, send messages of support and collect money for the strikers.
A huge strike on 10 November can be a sign to other public sector workers that we can challenge Brown’s pay curbs and win.
The strike will be followed by an overtime ban. The PCS national executive will meet a few days after the strike to discuss what action to call next. It must put forward a serious programme of action to take place in the run-up to Christmas.
This, along with linking up with other unions in dispute, will increase the pressure on the government.
Over 100,000 health workers in the Unite union are currently balloting over taking action over pay. Local government workers in Scotland are balloting over their new pay offer with a recommendation to reject. A strike ballot of NUT teachers will end next week.
The TUC should also call a day of action to coincide with a strike day, as agreed at the TUC congress this year.
Sue Bond is the vice-president of the PCS. Andy Reid and Paul Williams are members of the PCS national executive. They write in a personal capacity