Socialist Worker

PCS members say, ‘Let’s get a huge strike vote over pay in the civil service’

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2610

PCS union reps getting ready for the vote in Newcastle

PCS union reps getting ready for the vote in Newcastle (Pic: PCS)


Civil service workers were set mount payday ­protests on Friday as part of a national day of action.

The action is aimed at helping the PCS union to deliver a thumping yes vote in a national ballot for strikes over pay.

The union is fighting to beat the public sector pay cap which has held workers’ salaries down with well-below inflation increases since 2010.

A strong vote for action in the ballot—which ends on 23 July—could lead to one of the biggest strikes of the year.

Workers in major government departments such as HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions could all walk out together.

The union has asked its members to hold protests outside their workplaces on Friday—pay day. But campaigning doesn’t stop there. Activists are fighting every day to deliver a yes vote.

Kate Douglas, a PCS member in Oxford, told Socialist Worker how activists in her branch have used car park meetings to drive up the vote.

“We don’t often hold members’ meetings because we don’t get facility time, but people are coming—and we’re getting a lot of new members.

“I hold up a bit of paper that has £7,168 written on it and say, this is how much higher my annual salary would be if we’d had equal to inflation pay rises since 2010. It really shocks people that they could have lost that much.

“I tell them if they work out how much they’ve lost each year since then, it’s about £30,000 pounds they’ve been diddled out of. It really hits home with people.”

Threshold

A major task is to make sure that enough members vote to hit the 50 percent turnout threshold demanded by Tory anti-union laws.

Kate said activists in her branch were organising meticulously to make sure they hit the threshold.

“We have one rep to every 19 members. Everyone has a list of 19 that they have to tick off. If everyone gets ten, then we know we’ve hit the 50 percent threshold.

“In Oxford people went and posted their ballot papers together. And a lot of people have already posted theirs.

“We were on 12 percent after just the first four days of the ballot. So we’re ­hopeful about it.”

Kate added that DWP bosses are pulling out all the stops to hinder the ­campaign.

“The DWP has sent emails to all managers saying what reps can and can’t do—they’re going further than they should do. They say we can’t even discuss pay at all on site.

“They want to make it difficult to organise. They say you can’t send emails round, you can’t leaflet inside ­workplaces.

“They’re also saying you’re not allowed to meet in car parks—but you are because they don’t belong to the DWP.”

She added, “They’re trying to catch reps out, but we’re being clever.

“We’ve also got a ­WhatsApp group to discuss getting the vote out so we don’t use our work emails.

“Some mornings I wake up and have around 80 messages to read—it shows that all the reps are really fired up.”


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