Socialist Worker

Why the PCS should be on strike

by Sue Bond, Andy Reid and Paul Williams
Issue No. 2127

The national executive of the PCS civil service workers’ union last week voted to suspend a strike by 270,000 members over pay, which was due to take place on Monday.

This followed an offer by the government of three weeks of talks.

We believe it was wrong to call off the strike and voted on the executive against the decision.

The PCS’s consistent campaigning for united opposition to the public sector pay cap has acted as a beacon for activists in other unions.

The NUT teachers’ union’s decision last week not to call strike action has given the government a breathing space in which to try to take the PCS out of the picture before other groups of workers move into action or face below-inflation pay offers next year.

Monday’s planned national strike would have also signalled the start of a national overtime ban and rolling sectional strikes across different departments and public bodies over several months.

The action would have involved more members than before – including many groups of members not previously covered by the national campaign and who, in some instances, had not been involved in strike action for years.

The indications were that activists and members had risen to the challenge and built up real momentum.

The government must have believed this or it would not have offered talks.

But it is far from clear how serious it is about tackling even those areas of pay and budgeting that discriminate against PCS members particularly harshly.

Gordon Brown is still insistent on his pay cap for the public sector, which underlies the attacks on all our members’ living standards. A strike on Monday would also have increased the pressure on the government in any talks.

The industrial action has been suspended pending talks, not cancelled.

Activists must ensure that workers are prepared to resume the action if and when it is necessary.

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

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