Over 200,000 civil service workers in the PCS union struck on Friday of last week and Monday of this week.
Workers at most sites walked out at 1pm on Friday. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) struck until 1pm on Monday and took to picket lines and rallies across Britain.
The choice of strike days was important. On Friday thousands of civil service workers had their salaries cut through a hike in their pension contributions.
And a new computer system for monthly tax calculation was due to be introduced on Monday. The HMRC strike closed offices in an effort to disrupt it.
The passport office workers were joined by job centre workers, court staff and others on their second strike in a month. They are fighting a below inflation pay cap, increased pension contributions and attacks on working conditions.
In Bristol over three quarters of workers at the Fishponds Department for Work and Pensions call centre struck on Friday. Workers at Bedminster job centre also walked out.
One worker said, “I’m angry at the mess the Tories have made of the system. I’m being forced to ruin lives.”
Strikers talked about their fears for future generations. “The amount of young people that come in and feel that they have no future at 17 or 18 is shocking” said one. “Something has to give”.
In London on Friday 200 strikers massed outside the Cabinet Office on Whitehall and workers at nearby galleries set up picket lines.
Strikers cheered as PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka announced that union members at the Home Office will take part in five days of rolling strikes starting later this month. They were expected to join the strikes but bosses mounted a legal challenge using the anti-union laws.
In response the PCS union has gone on the offensive. The action in two weeks’ time.
The strikes are part of the PCS’s three-month programme of action against austerity.
HMRC workers stayed away from work on Monday morning.
Anna Owens who picketed Euston Tower on Monday told Socialist Worker, “It’s a great response from the union to the Home Office attacks. Now we need that throughout the civil service.
“They haven’t called more strike dates yet but we need more soon.”
Nigel Green is the secretary of the Hyde Park PCS at the Royal Parks Agency. He told Socialist Worker, “Our strikes are important because this government is clearly going to keep coming at us, and we’ve got to do something.”
“The strikes can put a marker down and galvanise other unions to strike.”
At Glasgow’s Northgate benefit centre, site rep and union women’s officer, Claire McInally, joined Friday’s walkout.
“We are striking because we feel we have a responsibility to the public,” she told Socialist Worker, “especially people who rely on benefits.
“This is not about us just defending ourselves—it’s about protecting public services.
“A day’s pay is nothing compared to what our members and the public will lose if the government gets away with its attacks.”
In St Helens branch secretary Warren told Socialist Worker on Monday, “We’re sorry we can’t serve the public today but the government won’t listen to the reasonable requests of the union.”
Another striker, Keith, added, “86 percent of staff are in the union and they’re all out. We know that strikes can work and that by sticking together we can win.”
The PCS strikes show the determination of public sector workers to fight the Tory attacks.
It’s time for other unions to rejoin the battle.
Thanks to everyone who sent reports