Socialist Worker

Why you should back the strikes

THIS IS a major confrontation with a stumbling but nasty government. ,strong>MARK SERWOTKA</strong>, general secretary of the civil servants' PCS union, told Socialist Worker last week why everyone should back their fight:

Issue No. 1886

'CIVIL SERVANTS do not vote to take strike action lightly, but the time has come for a decent living wage for all. The image of civil servants as bowler-hatted Sir Humphreys on fat cat pay and a huge pension is wrong. Almost 15,000 civil servants earn less than £10,000 a year.

Some 25 percent earn less than £15,000. Over 20,000 PCS union members have to claim state benefits because their wages are so low. These are people delivering services, performing vital frontline duties.

Government ministers should be shamefaced. Could they live on £10,000 to £15,000?

The government is not prepared to release the resources to recompense workers. We have tried to negotiate but in every department we have come up against the dead hand of the Treasury. The time has come for something to be done.

There is a clear feeling from people that they are not seen as being valid as a government employee, but are being penalised.

People deliver services from the cradle to the grave, and they are angry at the way they are being treated. They have said that they've had enough of it. They can't be expected to take a pay cut, which in reality is what is being asked of them. I sense there is a real feeling of anger over it all.

It is in all working people's interests to support others who are taking action to defend their terms and conditions. Any breakthrough that we make over pay can be a beacon to others.

Everyone depends on the service that civil servants provide. Whether you use an airport, claim benefits or use the criminal justice system, you will rely upon a civil servant at some point.

I call on trade unionists everywhere to support our action.

Many of the people on strike have shown solidarity with other groups of workers who have taken action, like the firefighters. The government have tried to intimidate and cow people, saying that you can't win. It's only by standing together that people have a chance to win. We have to put pressure on the government to win improved terms and conditions.

The critical thing is delivering people out on strike this week. This needs to be more than the people who voted yes in the ballots-which I am confident we can.

What we need is a show of support for the two days of action.

Everyone must respect the picket lines.

I am calling on non-members of the union to join the PCS on the day of the action.

After these strikes the union will consult our reps everywhere to take soundings. We have to ensure that the consultation reaches right down to all levels in the union. The union leaders shouldn't be ahead of the members, but they shouldn't be behind either.

We may well have to be prepared to take more action to win what is necessary.'


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Features
Sat 31 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1886
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