A national strike by 200,000 government workers hit hard on budget day last Wednesday.
There was a strong response to the strike call from PCS members with picket lines across the country, including one outside parliament.
The PCS union members are angry that the government wants to rip up their redundancy agreements in preparation for mass job losses after the election.
The strike had a big impact on job centres, galleries, courts and other government services. Reports indicate that it was at least as well supported as the previous two days of action.
Not every union member struck. But there is a large core of activists building the action—and the government’s talk of only 80,000 people striking is a fantasy.
Workers protested outside parliament during the announcement of the budget, in which chancellor Alistair Darling declared that he was preparing more cuts and wanted to relocate a third of civil service workers from London.
Vasilis Sylaidis, a Greek trade unionist, spoke to the strikers outside parliament, bringing solidarity from the struggle there against the cuts.
There was a defiant spirit on picket lines as the strike started to bite.
“There has been an excellent turnout for the strike,” said Trevor Smith, a union rep in the Defra department. “People are becoming more aware that their jobs are on the line.
“We are not just striking for ourselves, but for everyone. We want to keep the compensation rights we have for future generations.
“If the government succeeds on this issue it will then target our pension and other rights.
“People who have worked for the civil service for a long time and young people are going to lose out.
“Budget day was an excellent day to strike as it highlighted all the issues we’ve been talking about.”
“If this goes through it’s going to much cheaper to make people redundant,” said Les Mondry-Flesch, a PCS rep in London. “It will be easier to make job cuts later.
“It really annoys me the way the media portray us—as if every civil servant gets ‘goldplated pensions’ and other benefits.”
“This strike has been brilliant,” said Dee Luxford, a Revenue & Customs worker in Bognor Regis. “If anything, there was better support than the last two days of action.
“This is partly to do with the fact that the union is still campaigning to defend our terms and conditions and hasn’t let the issue drop.
“It’s also to do with the fact that management are putting out propaganda that members can see through. They made people angry and wanting to come out again.”
Strikers were clear that there would need to be further action if their demands are not met, if possible in co-ordination with other groups of workers.
“We have a three pronged attack—strike action, the legal campaign and political pressure,” said Dee. “We are not on our own, as the disputes in other industries show.
“If the government still refuses to listen, I would like to see rolling industrial action to keep the pressure up.”
“I can see that whatever government wins the general election we will need a general strike, like in Greece, of all the unions against its plans,” said Trevor.
“That would create ripples throughout Europe. More people are going to be saying that it’s right to strike and we’re going to join you.”
Julie Bremner, a PCS rep in Norwich, said, “The Fire Brigades Union locally is facing cuts and the PCS in Norwich pledged at our strike rally to unite with them to defend jobs and services. There is a real desire to take action together.”
The PCS wants to use the overtime ban to increase the pressure on management over the next few weeks.
A legal challenge to the changes, which come into effect this week, will be heard later this month.
Last week’s successful strikes cannot be the end of industrial action. More national action will be needed to keep up the momentum and force whichever party forms the next government to back down.
The PCS should attempt to co-ordinate with other unions to strike around the time of the general election.