Socialist Worker

‘Everyone should get behind our strike’

265,000 civil service workers are set to strike this Friday against New Labour’s plans to cut jobs and attack sick pay and pensions

Issue No. 1926

Workers IN the PCS civil service workers’ union at the British Library in London and Boston Spa have reached the end of their tether.

A massive walkout across the culture section is expected on 5 November among workers who fear for the future of the public service.

Not only is it a demonstration of solidarity with colleagues in civil service departments targeted for huge job losses, it is also a recognition that Gordon Brown’s cuts can affect every worker in every publicly funded organisation.

It is a protest over the “efficiency savings” each workplace has to make, affecting acquisition of books and staffing levels in the British Library.

A letter sent in August from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport outlined the savings that have to be made in the national library, and in major museums and galleries.

The British Library has to save £10 million. There is also anger over threats to pensions, sick leave and compensation payments that potentially disadvantage every worker.

Morale in the British Library is at rock bottom. Discontent has reached the attention of London rag the Evening Standard.

Columnist A N Wilson, a British Library reader, offered his wholehearted support to potential strikers. He even suggested building stocks in our “piazza” and pelting the chief executive with tomatoes.

A survey of the workforce revealed a 5 percent approval rating for the library’s directors.

They earn six-digit salaries. They have recently presented a pay offer to everyone else that amounts to a measly 2.5 percent increase to miserably paid staff, the majority of whom earn less than £20,000 a year.

Money isn’t all we have to moan about. Workers are facing a massive attack on working hours and terms and conditions, including the tearing up of our redundancy agreement, with the potential threat of compulsory redundancy hanging over every individual.

Senior managers are intent on depriving low paid staff of overtime and introducing a family-unfriendly system of “alternative working patterns”.

For derisory allowances of £49 per week on top of salaries, staff are expected to work four nights past 8pm plus Saturday.

Staff have rejected this insulting offer, so management seek to impose it by bullying tactics, including recruiting new workers and using workers displaced from other jobs in the library.

Other groups of workers are also suffering shoddy treatment. Loyal, long serving, hard working junior grades are treated with contempt.

Security staff are being coerced into taking up cloakroom duties. “Modernisation” of reprographics with resulting job losses is a recipe for chaos in reading rooms plus potential damage to irreplaceable stock.

Management are trying hard to undermine the strike. Messages to staff express their determination to keep the site open.

But with so many key workers absent there will be scant service to the public happening on 5 November.

Human resources managers plan to come to the picket line to escort staff and the public into the building. People should support our strike.

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