Socialist Worker

Biggest civil service strike in years

Issue No. 1925

CIVIL SERVICE workers sent a defiant message to the government last week by voting by almost two to one to strike against massive job cuts and attacks on public services.

Around 265,000 workers in the PCS union are set to strike on Friday of next week against this.

Some 72,780 PCS members voted yes to striking on 5 November, while 40,142 voted no. This was on a 42 percent turnout.

New Labour wants to slash 104,000 civil service jobs, devastating local services, and push through attacks on public sector workers’ pension rights and sick pay.

It wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65, end the final salary pension scheme and reduce workers’ rights to sick pay.

This will be the biggest civil service strike in a generation.

The result shows that people are aware that this is an attack on every civil service worker and the public sector.

Everybody should back our fight to defend public services.

PCS members provide a vital service to the public, from delivering benefits, pensions and advice to working in customs, galleries, health and safety, and many other departments.

The government’s plans will damage public services.

The vote is a recognition of the huge level of anger amongst civil service workers, even where they are not facing immediate cuts.

It shows that the mood to resist these outrageous attacks exists across the civil service.

We have to go all out now to make Friday 5 November the biggest possible message to this government that we will not put up with these attacks.


We need big, lively picket lines, demonstrations and rallies at every workplace and in every town.

We have support from the TUC and all the big unions.

That has to be turned into reality. Trade unionists should come to our picket lines and show their solidarity with our fight.

The government wanted to ram through these attacks and isolate the PCS.

But other trade unionists see this as an attack on everyone, not just on civil service workers.

If the government beat us, they will go for other trade unions next.

Gordon Brown’s spending review is the opposite of investment in public services.


He is attacking public services because he refuses to increase taxes on the rich to pay for them.

He says the cuts will allow the transfer of funds from inefficient bureaucracy to the frontline.

But in the Department for Work and Pensions, which delivers unemployment benefits and pensions among other things, all of the cuts are falling on the frontline.

Services will no longer be provided in local offices but in remote processing centres.

These cuts will mean that the services to the public will be in danger of complete collapse.

They are about weakening the union and opening up the civil service for privatisation in the future.

This is a huge attack on a group of organised workers. An alliance of civil service, local government and education workers is coming together.

There is an emerging campaign on the issue of pensions.

The attack on final salary pension schemes should unite all unions in defence of pensions.

The scale of our response and the level of backing we have got from other unions has surprised Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Next Friday is the opening shot in our campaign.

It will be a demonstration of the strength of feeling, anger and determination that exists.

The national executive of the union is meeting this week, and it will discuss building for the most successful strike possible and how to take the campaign forward.

All the experience of the industrial action of the last year in different departments has shown that a large number of people who vote no are loyal union members who will respect the democratic decision.

Most of them won’t cross picket lines and many will join them.

We can win this battle. People want decent public services and committed public servants to deliver them. There is a lot of support for us.

The more lively the 5 November strike, and the more solidarity we receive, the more pressure there will be on Brown and Blair to back down.

Sue Bond is the vice-president of PCS and Martin John is a member of its national executive committee

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Article information

Sat 30 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1925
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