Socialist Worker

Civil servants’ rage as 104,000 jobs axed

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 1910

GORDON BROWN launched an incredible assault on public sector workers in his spending review on Monday. He wants to sack one in five civil servants, axing 104,000 jobs.

His attacks could see 84,150 jobs destroyed in England, and 20,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He plans to shift 20,000 of the remaining jobs out of the south east of England.

There was the sickening spectacle of politicians and media commentators describing hard working public sector workers as “waste”. And, to add insult to injury, he announced plans to clamp down on sick leave throughout the public sector.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil servants’ union, said, “Job cuts on this scale spell carnage for public services.

“How are the government going to deliver their promises on tax credits, winter fuel payments and closing tax loopholes in the face of such devastating cuts?

“The chancellor is creating a false divide between the front line and back line. PCS members on the front line know they cannot do their job without the vital support from the back office.

“The chancellor’s announcement on clamping down on sick absence comes as a double whammy.

“For the government to imply its own workforce are shirking is just another slap in the face. In light of such attacks on hardworking civil servants we will be consulting our members, taking our case to the wider trade union movement and to the users of public services in order to mount the most vigorous defence of our members’ jobs.

“We cannot rule out industrial action in the face of such a serious attack.”

Brown’s biggest attacks are on the Department of Work and Pensions, where 40,000 jobs will go.

A merger between the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise will mean 16,000 jobs going. While billions of pounds are poured into keeping the troops in Iraq, 15,000 civil servants in the Ministry of Defence will be out of work.

Sue Bond, the vice president of the PCS civil servants’ union, says, “Brown is trying to present himself as a moneybags, but underpinning everything is a nasty attack on civil servants.

“The billions in ‘efficiency cost savings’ made across the public sector will only be made at the expense of public sector workers.

“All the media and politicians are now portraying us as pen-pushers, skivers and no use to anyone.

“Brown and the Tory shadow chancellor are both equally committed to cutting 100,000 jobs.

“I’m incandescent about this. I think that’s going to be the reaction of PCS members and public sector workers.

“There is plenty of inefficiency and waste in public spending—£6 billion on invading Iraq, management consultants for every government department to push through cuts.

“This is an attack on public services and everybody who delivers them. We are so different from the stereotype of men in bowler hats.

“A woman I was speaking to works in London providing benefit advice to people with mental health problems, drug problems and the homeless. She is paid £16,000 for that. And her job is now going.

“There are people like her all over the country. Watching Brown’s speech on TV made me so angry. I was just thinking, how dare they? All these politicians don’t deliver anything. They’re the real pen-pushers.”

Martin John, a national executive member of the PCS union, says, “The departments have no idea how to implement these cuts without destroying public services.

“It isn’t just the back room jobs that will be going, but frontline as well.

“There’s no depths New Labour won’t sink to.

“But there is going to be an overwhelming response by members. People are not in the mood to be kicked around any more.

“The scale of cuts is bonkers. People are fed up with all the civil service bashing.

“It is a myth that there is a huge efficiency saving to be made.

“There are all sorts of dangers to public services. But there is every prospect of a scale of resistance we haven’t seen before.”

Brown says he wants to curb the “abuse” of sickness in the public sector.

Workers in the public sector face a huge amount of stress because of government targets, holding together the service and high workloads. Four out of ten workers in health and education report a high level of stress.

Sue Bond says, “A lot of people are off sick because of the pressure, government goals and the targets. It’s a very stressful environment.

“Now people are being told they’re worthless. Of course people are sick. They’re made sick by the government and they’re sick of the government.

“The PCS union has to move very quickly. We certainly need a strike across the civil service to defend jobs and services. We need a robust strategy to challenge a government that’s gone on the offensive.

“New Labour have stooped really low this time. Blair and Brown are attacking low-paid support staff who deliver essential services to the most needy people in Britain.”


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Features
Sat 17 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1910
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