Chancellor Alistair Darling crossed a picket line on his way to work this morning. And hundreds of civil service workers assembled outside parliament to protest as he delivered his budget speech.
The protesters were part of the 200,000 strong strike by PCS union members in the civil service against attacks on their redundancy terms and conditions.
More than 20 workers picketed outside parliament chanting “Job cuts no way – save our jobs on budget day.”
They were joined by left wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, who came to show his support for the striking workers.
“We haven’t struck in 29 years,” Julie Goodman, chair of the PCS palaces branch told Socialist Worker.
“But this is the thin end of the wedge. Just like the bankers’ bonuses, my terms and conditions are contractual – I’m honouring my end of the agreement, now the government should honour theirs.
“All the main parties standing in the election say that they are after our final salary pensions. If we allow one onslaught on our terms and conditions there will be more.
“There has been very good support for the strike, and very few members have gone in to work in parliament. We will need further action if the government doesn’t listen.”
Reports from picket lines outside workplaces across Britain are filtering through as the strike begins to hit home.
Identity and Passport Service, London
John Bigger, secretary of the IPS London and the South branch, told Socialist Worker, “The strike is going really well and has really hit hard.
“We’ve sent the local management a strong message. We need a negotiated settlement to this dispute, or the campaign will continue on a legal and industrial front.
“Budget day is the perfect day to strike. The economic and financial crisis was not caused by public sector workers but by the greedy rich – but the public has paid for it by bailing out the banks and paying for bankers bonuses.
“We don’t need to pay again by losing our terms and conditions and getting low pay.”
Workers picketing at the Tyneview Park DWP office were joined by trade unionists from other workplaces to march to South Shields, where Labour Minister David Miliband held his surgery.
David Stead, PCS assistant branch secretary said, “We will continue this action and we will be looking to the national executive for leadership. Our branch slogan is ‘CUT Bankers Bonuses NOT Redundancy Payments’.”
Pickets covered both entrances of the new PFI civil justice centre in central Manchester this morning. Pickets were encouraged by the donation of £500 to the strike fund by a barrister and the story of a juror who, despite being threatened with contempt of court, had refused to do jury service on a strike day.
There was an impressive turnout of pickets at the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Hempstead House. Jon Gamble, a PCS rep in the office, reported, “Support for the dispute is hardening in the office. We are not going to sit back and listen to Alistair Darling drone on about how he is going to cut £34 million from the CLG budget and massacre jobs and services. We are not going to vote for a government that attacks our contractual rights. Many members think it would be good for PCS to call a strike on election day. If we are going to lose our jobs, the government can lose our votes.”
Thanks to Jon Gamble, Martin Empson, Mark Krantz for reports. Socialist Worker will keep updating with reports from across the country. Please send in any pictures and reports to firstname.lastname@example.org