Socialist Worker

Wildcat civil servants

by PHIL PARDOE, PCS Department for Work and Pensions group executive committee (personal capacity
Issue No. 1899

OVER 1,000 workers in Scotland and Lancashire walked out unofficially last week in response to management's suspension of PCS civil servants' union activists. Management also suspended four PCS members in Leeds on Monday of this week. Some 500 workers in two offices, Hume House and Park place, walked out. Eight offices in East London walked out unofficially on Tuesday of this week after managment suspended Nigel Prendergast, a union activist in Hackney. These activists refused to carry out staff appraisals under the Performance Development Scheme.

PCS members overwhelmingly voted against this unfair and discriminatory performance related pay scheme in December. We voted to work to rule against it. This is part of our campaign against low pay and management attacks which has seen around 90,000 workers strike in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in February and April. The DWP covers job centres, benefits offices, pensions centres and the Child Support Agency.

Management suspended John Cook in Irvine, Ayrshire, on Thursday of last week. A number of offices walked out in protest (see below). Management then suspended a PCS member in Morecambe on Friday. Morecambe and Lancaster offices then walked out. This was the right response. More offices should have walked out. The union should have given a clearer lead and has got to step things up.

The group executive committee, which runs the union in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has a policy that says that members should back down when threatened with suspension.

The group executive has got to review that policy, change it and back members under attack. There are a number of people facing the probability of suspension. If any union member is threatened with suspension the national union should pull him or her out on strike and pay their wages.

Their office, and others in the local area, have to walk out straightaway. We have to make the walk-outs as widespread as possible.

Management is trying to destroy the union's policy of opposing appraisals. They will succeed if the union keeps telling people to write reports. Management have taken a few knocks, with our successful strikes, but have decided to go on the offensive.

The union now has a choice between escalation and capitulation. The group executive was set to meet on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. It has to decide how to take the dispute forward. We have had two well supported strikes in three months. They were good, but not enough to win the dispute. We have to counter the employers' offensive with an offensive of our own.

Scotland and Lancashire

ALAN BROWN, a civil servant in Scotland and a member of the PCS national executive, told Socialist Worker about the response to the suspension of John Cook.

"MANAGEMENT suspended John Cook at 3.30pm on Thursday. Myself and another national executive member went to Irvine office to speak to members. This was a meeting called for by members. It was clear that they were very angry and they wanted to come out. By about 60 to two they voted to come out in support of John Cook. The two who voted against still came out. Ayr, Dumfries, Stranraer and Cumnock offices, which are in the same branch as Irvine, all walked out. Members in Laurieston office also walked out. Around 1,000 people were involved. John Cook is not the only line manager to carry out the union's boycott. He is a regional trade union officer. It is quite clear management have picked on John to pressure others to carry out appraisals. Management have suspended John until 28 May without pay. It is appalling. This is not a disciplinary offence, yet they are imposing disciplinary procedures on people. It is an attack on the union and our campaign against the Performance Development System. Some 97 percent of members voted against it and for action short of a strike in December."


PCS MEMBERS are continuing to vote in crucial national executive elections. Activists throughout the union are still campaigning for the Democracy slate involving Left Unity and the PCS Democrats.

This slate is committed to fighting for members and promoting democracy throughout the union.

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    Article information

    Sat 1 May 2004, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1899
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