The PCS national executive committee has voted to suspend the strike over pay by 270,000 civil service workers, which was set to take place on Monday.
The executive voted to suspend the strike for four weeks to allow three weeks of talks.
It is clear that the threat of action was the reason that the government offered negotiations, and this is an important lesson for all workers facing attacks on pay. But Socialist Worker believes that it was wrong to call off the strikes.
There are no concrete improvements on the table, and no more than hints about what will result from the talks. There are very deep concerns about whether the union can rely on the “good faith” of a government that has launched attack after attack on civil service workers. And, if the talks produce nothing, it is doubtful if the PCS will be stronger in calling a strike in December than it would if it had called action now.
The government's offer of talks shows that it knew the strike would be a success. If ministers had thought it was going to collapse they would have let it go ahead. The PCS should have used this to press on with the action.
Socialist Workers Party members on the executive—Sue Bond, Andy Reid and Paul Williams—voted to continue the action.
The pay struggle is at a crucial point. The teachers’ NUT union executive’s decision not to call action, despite a narrow yes vote in the ballot, had an effect. The government’s offer to the PCS came hours after that decision, in an attempt to snuff out the pay revolt across the unions.
The PCS pay dispute is not over. Every activist must continue to press on with the campaign and push for further strikes if the talks do not produce a decent deal.
The fundamental question for any union considering action is the interests of the working class in response to the economic crisis. Socialists do not look simply at the detail of any dispute but also at the bigger picture of the interests of the class as a whole.
The PCS had a chance to say that it was standing up to say workers won't pay for the crisis—this opportunity has been missed.
The question of leadership is absolutely critical at the moment. We could have had nearly half a million workers on strike against Brown's pay policy over the next week. Instead we have none. That is not something that is inevitable, it is about political leadership.
Next week we will get the results of the Unite workers ballot in the NHS, the Scottish local government workers. We must hope these are for resistance—and that they are turned into action.