Socialist Worker

Civil service workers plan budget day walk out

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2192

PCS members rally in Birmingham on Monday. Picture: Simon Furze

PCS members rally in Birmingham on Monday. Picture: Simon Furze


Over 200,000 civil service workers struck on Monday and Tuesday in the first major national battle against the government’s cuts programme.

Government plans will slash the redundancy payments in preparation for massive job cuts and privatisation.

PCS union members are fighting to defend public services we all rely on.

Labour minister Tessa Jowell tried to rubbish the strike, claiming that only 80,000 people took action.

But reports from picket lines across Britain show there was huge support for the strike.

Around 2,000 driving tests were cancelled, there was minimal service at job centres and benefit offices, and many court sittings across England and Wales and passport appointments were called off.

Strikers joined big picket lines in many places—including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at the Revenue & Customs contact centre in Cardiff on Monday.

At several picket lines people joined the union.

PCS members, and workers from other unions, joined protests in towns and cities across Britain.

Rallies

Some 300 workers rallied in Glasgow, 200 in Liverpool, 200 in Birmingham, 100 in Cardiff and 80 in Bristol. And 500 people marched and rallied in London on Tuesday.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the rally that the union was ready to call more national strikes.

He also suggested walkouts when Alistair Darling stands up to deliver his budget speech—an initiative that other workers could follow.

This is a crucial strike. “It’s part of a wider attack on the public sector,” Zita Holbourne, a worker at Acas and member of the PCS union’s national executive, told Socialist Worker.

“Whichever party gets into government it will be gunning for public sector workers. It may be the civil service today, but it will be health workers and firefighters tomorrow.”

“The strikes have been exceptionally well-supported in Liverpool and the north west of England,” said Dave Owens, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) call centre worker. “At my workplace, only nine out of 170 people went in.”

Message

Kwame Ababio, the chair of the PCS London British Library branch, told Socialist Worker, “We are sending a powerful message to the government—we won’t let you walk all over us.

“None of the political parties represent working people. The only way we’ll achieve anything is through our own strength.”

Pickets were out in force at the National Gallery in London, where workers have held a series of two-hour strikes in a separate dispute over low pay.

“The vast majority of members here earn less than the London Living Wage of £7.60 an hour,” said Graham Eve, PCS branch organiser at the gallery.

“If it becomes easier for managers to lay people off it threatens our job security.”

There were lively picket lines across Manchester, and a good rally in the city centre, reports Sue Bond, the PCS vice-president. “People are very determined and up for the action.”

Monday and Tuesday was not just a public sector strike.

It also saw solidarity between private and public sector workers, with 1,000 Hewlett Packard staff in the PCS also striking over redundancies and pay freezes.


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