Tens of thousands of civil service workers are striking today and tomorrow against government plans to make it easier to sack them. The PCS union members are taking action against plans to cut their redundancy payments, which they believe is a prelude to mass job cuts after the election.
The strike hit museums, galleries, job centres and benefit offices, ports, government ministries, tax offices and many other areas. Protests and rallies took place in different towns and cities.
There were strong picket lines at sites across Britain, with strikers reporting good support for the action from members. Twenty seven people picketed the Victoria and Albert museum in London, while there were also sizeable pickets outside the Tate Modern, the National gallery and the British Library.
Around 200 people packed into a lunchtime rally in Liverpool, with general secretary Mark Serwotka, to hear reports of how the action had been rock solid across the city and the north west of England.
“People are very angry,” Zita Holbourne, an Acas worker and member of the union's national executive, told Socialist Worker. “They see this as the biggest attack on them so far.
“This is about job cuts on the cheap and if it goes through the government will put thousands of jobs at risk. Whichever party gets into government it will be gunning for public sector workers. It may be the civil service today, but it will be postal workers and firefighters tomorrow.”
The PCS strike continues tomorrow and the union is pledging to call more hard-hitting action to increase the pressure on New Labour.
St Austell, Cornwall
Strong picket lines were in place at the Revenue & Customs office and contact centre, and the benefit office, from 6.45 am. Nigel Pascoe, PCS office rep, said that several workers had joined the union in the run up to the strike and that “many more non-members had asked what their position was”.
There were picket lines at John Rideal House and Joseph Locke House—the two main civil service workplaces in Barnsley—this morning. Two of the outlying job centres were closed for the day because of support for the strike. All pickets reported solid support for the strike from union members.
Pickets at the county court reported that only managers and one agency worker had gone into work. Delegations from the local branches of the NUT and the UCU joined the picket lines and got an enthusiastic reception.
Pickets were in a determined mood on the picket line in Chorlton. “Getting rid of the compensation scheme is about more than benefits for people made redundant,” explained Les,”'They want to make it easier to sack people, and we are becoming a great big call centre, ripe for privatisation.'.
Another union activist said, “We should be on strike against the call centre plans as well as over the compensation scheme. That would make the whole fight stronger.”