Strike ballot papers arrived at the homes of more than 270,000 civil service workers last week. The workers’ PCS union is urging them to vote yes to defend their redundancy rights and jobs, and oppose privatisation.
New Labour wants to cut the terms of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme – the payouts workers receive when they are made redundant.
It will then move to make major job losses across the civil service.
The worsening of conditions will make it easier to sell off services to privateers.
PCS members are angry that the government wants them to pay the price for bailing out the bankers. They are mobilising to ensure a big yes vote to resist the attacks.
Niaz Faiz is the assistant secretary of the PCS Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) London branch.
He said, “My branch held a members’ meeting before the ballot began, which 40 people attended.
“They were up for action. We are a large branch, with 785 members. We’ll be pushing to get yes votes for strike action and for action short of a strike.
“Some of us leafleted PCS members at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. We ran out of leaflets in 45 minutes.”
Many PCS members are angry that five other civil service unions – Prospect, the FDA, Unite, the GMB and the POA – have accepted the deal and undermined the PCS’s fight.
“It’s only because the PCS stood firm against the original plan that the governemnt made a few concessions,” said Niaz. “The other unions have accepted these proposals.
“But the PCS represents more of the people affected by these plans than the other unions combined. We also represent the lower grades who will be hit hardest. There will be far more losers than winners.
“Senior civil servants in the FDA association are not going to lose out as much as our members.
“We also have to look at this in the broader context. Because of the state of public finances, the government wants to make major cuts. This is a prelude to getting rid of civil service workers on the cheap.
“There could be compulsory redundancies.
“This is of acute concern to us in Defra as our department was the first to issue compulsory redundancies.”
Some 141 MPs, 101 of them Labour, have backed a Commons motion that urges the government to reconsider its plans.
The ballot ends on 25 February. Activists are arguing that a campaign of hard-hitting national strikes can win this fight.
The union plans to kick-start the action with a two-day national strike, followed by regional action.
But this must not mean the end of national action.