THE HIGHLY successful strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week by around 100,000 civil servants in the PCS union showed a real determination among members. People are not willing to give in to low pay and performance-related pay. Leaked documents last week showed how Kevin White, the human resources director at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), disgracefully criticised women staff for their supposed lack of ambition.
White said, "Some 70 percent of staff were women, many with caring responsibilities, and although the work was relatively low paid they were attracted by the decent, local, family-friendly employment the department offered and had no incentive to leave or progress."
The union has lodged a national pay claim for 2004. It wants an agreement to cover all departments and ties up all the outstanding issues of 2003. The Cabinet Office has rejected the claim. We are on a collision course with the government over pay.
To win this dispute the union needs to call more action. We need escalation. People are angry about low pay, the job cuts Gordon Brown announced in the budget and other issues. Activists need to call members' meetings where they pass resolutions calling for escalation of the action. These need to be forwarded to the group executive committee and copied to PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.
Crucial vote in PCS now
By SUE BOND, PCS vice-president (personal capacity)
BALLOT PAPERS go out this week as members of the PCS civil service union elect a new national executive and two senior full time officials. This will be a crucial election. For years a right wing "Moderate" leadership-which tried and failed to oust the left wing general secretary, Mark Serwotka-stood by doing nothing as low pay and "modernisation" ripped through the public sector. Last year they were voted out in favour of a new leadership committed to democracy and defending members' interests. Now we are up for re-election, together with elections for the deputy and assistant general secretary.
There is no room for complacency. The right wing have not gone away. Their red-scare propaganda has just secured them every seat in the recent national appeals committee election, on a turnout of only 7.5 percent. Most members know our union is standing up to the government's Tory policies. Membership is growing apace as a result.
But if enough of those members do not vote, then the right wing could get back in power on a low turnout. As the Left Unity secretary, Alan Runswick, puts it, "Unless activists get out and campaign for the Democracy slate, we will have a Moderate NEC for the next year, and two Moderate-backed senior full time officials for the next five years. Spring will end and winter will return."
Every activist should have made sure that their branch issues a recommendation to all members to vote for the full democracy slate of Left Unity and PCS Democrats. Just as important will be to leaflet every civil service workplace area.