Socialist Worker

Songs and solidarity on civil service workers' PCS picket lines

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2357

PCS union pickets in central London

PCS union pickets in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Some 22,000 workers in courts and prisons took part in half day strikes on Monday of this week and the preceding Friday.

The strikes were part of the PCS union’s national campaign against job cuts, and attacks on pay and conditions. 

The strikes were well supported with a high turnout across Britain.

They followed walkouts by some 135,000 PCS members at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

They took part in joint regional strikes around Britain last week, along with workers in the Valuation Office Authority (VOA).

The action hit jobcentres and tax offices.

Striking tax workers at Euston Tower in London played guitar and sang to catch the attention of passers-by.

Dave Plummer, a worker at Euston Tower, told Socialist Worker, “The DWP and HMRC are told to attack the weakest and we don’t want to do it.”

Many picket lines received solidarity visits from workers in other unions. 

For instance several Unison members came to Euston Tower, while many pickets in Brighton were joined by members of the GMB.

Dave said, “We need joint strikes. There’s a lot of solidarity between union members, if not between union leaders.”

The picket line at Euston Tower was also joined by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) and the Benefits Justice Campaign. They joined some striking workers in an occupation of the reception at the nearby Atos offices.

On Thursday, workers went on strike in Wales and the South West.

Marianne Owens, a HMRC worker in Cardiff and member of PCS national executive, spoke to Socialist Worker. 

“The strikes are really well attended,” she said. “But I’m in a fairly solid workplace and it’s getting increasingly difficult to organise strikes,” she said.

“HMRC has lost 37,000 staff since 2005 and there are plans to lose a further 10,000. 

“We’re really short staffed and have not had a pay rise in the last two years. 

“We’re asked to do more and more for less and less.”

During the London strike Mark Serwotka addressed a rally of supporters and striking workers. 

He said, “We will carry on all our efforts to get other unions to join us.”

He said that if other unions join, “We can think big and stop what the government is doing.”

At their annual conference last month the PCS voted to strike nationally at the end of this month.

Strikers at the rally debated whether this should be a half day or a whole day. 

People also discussed whether the PCS should join the teachers’ unions the NUT and NASUWT on 27 June.

Serwotka said the PCS will hold consultations at union branches to decide the tactics. He said, “We have to move to the next phase and make it harder hitting”.

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Article information

Tue 11 Jun 2013, 17:35 BST
Issue No. 2357
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