Civil service workers in the PCS union have voted overwhelmingly to hold a national strike at the end of this month.Workers were voting at the union's annual conference in Brighton last week.
The move is a massive step forward in the union's national campaign to defend jobs, pay and pensions. This has seen smaller strikes over the past six weeks.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka moved the motion to strike. He said workers face “the fight of our lives” against the Tory government.
Dave Owens, who works for the Department for Work and Pensions in Liverpool, seconded it. He said that “the Tories are waging class war” and workers must step up the campaign to stop them.
The debate on conference floor showed the mood to resist among delegates. One delegate described the motion as “the most ambitious” PCS members had passed.
Serwotka stressed that the union is prepared to take further action to stop the Tories.
“If the strikes this month and next aren't enough to force the government to negotiate, we will need an extended phase of the campaign,” he said.
The PCS hasn’t agreed a strike date. But the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions are set to walk out in the north west of England on 27 June. Dave argued that the PCS should reach out to other unions to strengthen the strike.
Serwotka has also previously called for joint strikes with the teachers.
If the PCS strikes with the teachers, over a quarter of a million workers could walk out together.
The motion allows PCS members to link up with other unions too.
It called for “the widest co-ordinated joint union industrial action possible over pay and pensions”.
Delegates also discussed the government’s attacks on benefit claimants and how to support claimants’ campaigns. The PCS is the largest union in the Department for Work and Pensions.
Delegates made it clear that they did not want to have to impose sanctions on claimants. They voted to back the idea that refusing to issue benefit sanctions could be used as a tactic of industrial action.
The union's National Disputes Committee has yet to agree to use this as a tactic. But the vote shows that PCS members are serious about fighting the Tories’ attacks on welfare.
They also passed a motion welcoming a joint statement by the PCS and the Dpac and Black Triangle disability campaigns.
It emphasises that benefit workers and claimants have a common interest in opposing cuts.
Delegates called on PCS members to publicise the impact of benefit cuts, and to order Right to Work and Workfare pamphlets for their branches.