There is anger among members of the PCS civil service workers’ union after their leaders voted to accept a national agreement in a long-running dispute over pay.
The deal allows “efficiency savings” in departments and other bodies to be used on pay in the same area.
This means that money from job losses can be used on pay, though the union claims this will come from consultants no longer being employed.
The union had won a strike ballot, which meant the government was under pressure to enter talks with it, but the ballot is no longer live. The decision to accept the deal was a major setback to the fight for decent public sector pay.
There was a big debate at the conference of the Left Unity group in the PCS last Saturday over the agreement, with Socialist Worker supporters and others criticising it.
Activists report deep dismay among members over the agreement.
Keith Crane, the secretary of PCS Defra London branch, told Socialist Worker, “Even the people who thought it would be difficult to pull off a strike and agreed with the leadership’s decision to suspend the strike set for 10 November are questioning the deal.
“There is a massive gulf between what the leadership is saying about the deal and what members think of it.
“The union needs to argue against workers’ job losses, and say that the civil service should stop wasting millions of pounds on consultants, which could then be used on pay.
“But this is a propaganda point for most departments, as it is unclear how much money it would immediately provide.”
Steve West, who is a member of the PCS group executive in the Department for Work and Pensions, said, “The feeling of a lot of union reps is that this is not a good deal. People don’t believe the union has got anything from it.”
Union activists in some departments are demanding that their pay deals are now reopened to see if more money can be given to workers.
In the same week as the deal, it emerged that the Revenue & Customs department is to close a further 90 offices, meaning 3,400 job losses, on top of 17,000 other job cuts.
Anna Owens, the organiser of Euston Tower PCS branch, said, “These cuts come as the union has launched a stop the tax gap campaign against the £21.5 billion in uncollected tax and the £25 billion lost through tax evasion.
“This money could be spent on improving the services we provide, stopping job cuts and increasing public sector pay. Each job is crucial and the union needs to unite against the cuts.
“Some argue that we can only make small gains in the current economic climate and the deal agreed last week was the best the union can get.
“But it breaks the national dispute and devolves everything down to the local level, where the union is weaker. The union must meet the challenges that this represents.”
All quotes are given in a personal capacity