Socialist Worker

PCS strike to challenge Tory assault on workers

A walkout by 250,000 workers on budget day can boost resistance to the Tories, writes Siân Ruddick

Issue No. 2344

PCS union members on strike at the Department for Education on Thursday of last week

PCS union members on strike at the Department for Education on Thursday of last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A quarter of a million workers are set to strike against Tory attacks on Wednesday of next week.

The walkout by civil service workers in the PCS union coincides with budget day. 

It is something that everyone who hates the Tories can get behind and support.

Workers are resisting government attacks on pay, pensions, jobs and working conditions. 

They backed strikes by 61 percent in a recent ballot.

Anna Owens is a PCS member in Euston, central London. She told Socialist Worker, “We want other unions to join us. 

“But we have no choice—we have to strike against the government’s cuts.

“People I work with want to know that we have a strategy to win. This strike is about renewing the resistance to austerity. 

“We hope other unions will not only support us on the day but join in the call for united walkouts and a general strike.”

Andy Reid, a member of the PCS union’s national executive committee, agreed.

“We are still absolutely open to coordinated action with other unions,” he said. 

“Workers in the public and private sector all face the same attacks.

“But such is the onslaught that we have to fight back in the here and now.”

Workers in job centres, tax offices, museums and courts will walk out alongside driving examiners, coastguards and customs staff.


The union has organised a rally opposite parliament in central London and protests across Britain as the budget is announced.

The union says that next week’s strike is just the start of a three-month programme of action to stop the assault.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said, “This is not a one-day protest. 

“This is the start of rolling programme of walkouts and disruptive action to put pressure on a government that is refusing to talk to us.”

The union is consulting members over what future action it should take.

PCS members will also debate the course of the action at the union’s annual conference in May.

It will be vital to argue for a hard-hitting programme of action that can have a real impact and inspire others to fight back too.

Many of the attacks have already gone through. Around 20,000 jobs have been cut from HM Revenue & Customs since 2006 and 200 offices  have closed.

This is at the same time that the Tories claim to be clamping down on tax avoidance.

As Anna pointed out, the cuts hit the most vulnerable workers hardest. 

“It is the lowest paid workers that are being hit by this first round of attacks,” she said. 

“That means black and Asian workers, and women. 

“Over 60 percent of PCS members are women. 

“The attacks will force women back into the home, unable to find work or pay for childcare. 

“There used to be an argument about how to get women into the workplace. Now we’re fighting to keep them there. 

“We need solidarity to fight these cuts, and win.”

Back the strike!

Some 250,000 PCS union members will strike on 20 March. You can support them by:

  • Organise a delegation from your workplace to visit a PCS picket line—and bring banners and food
  • Invite a PCS striker to your union meeting to talk to people about their dispute
  • Get your union or organisation to make a donation to the strike fund and raise money for strikers
  • Join the rallies and protests on the strike day to show solidarity

A campaign against austerity

Andy Reid is a member of the union’s national executive. He told Socialist Worker, “Most people haven’t had a pay rise in real terms for four or five years, or have faced a pay freeze. 

“On average, people have lost around 15 percent or more from their pay. 

“On top of that, people have been forced to increase their contributions into a worse pension scheme than they previously had.

“That is what government cuts mean for workers and that is why they voted to strike.

“We are not just out as a sectional dispute.

“We see this as a campaign against the austerity that is destroying the lives and working conditions of millions of ordinary people in Britain.”


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Article information

Thu 21 Mar 2013, 14:18 GMT
Issue No. 2344
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