As many as 100,000 civil service workers are set to strike on 1 February—a day of united action across trade unions.
The strike, called by the PCS union, is an opportunity to unite and escalate all the strikes over pay and jobs. It was announced just a day after the TUC union federation declared 1 February a day of protests against the Tories’ proposed anti-union laws.
Now, the PCS’s strike makes sure that the central issue of pay takes centre stage too. Union leaders should call every group of workers with a mandate to strike—in Royal Mail, the rail, the NHS and universities—out on that day too.
And in workplaces where there are no strikes called—or even no ballot—trade unionists should push for the maximum possible action on the day. Walkouts are best—but lunchtime protests and solidarity visits to picket lines are important too.
Sarah Ensor, a member of the PCS’s national executive committee which agreed the action on Wednesday, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. “The 1 February should be a massive show of strength across the union movement,” she said.
“We also need to show the government that we are serious, and we’re not going to just bow down before the anti-union laws. We’re going to defend our pay, conditions and the services that we provide.”
The strike call comes after weeks of rolling strikes across some government departments in a fight over pay, jobs and pensions. There have been strong picket lines, but the call for all 100,000 workers with a legal mandate to strike is a significant escalation.
“We want to make the most of this,” said Sarah. “We want to have as many picket lines as possible and as many people as possible on them. They should join rallies and be out on events. Branches could put on their own solidarity event and come up with things that they can do.”
She added that the 1 February strike has to be the beginning of united and escalating action among all unions, and of more all-member strikes in the PCS. “If we make 1 February a massive success, we will be able to escalate,” said Sarah. “And it will help us to win any re-ballots in departments that didn’t pass the turnout threshold last year.”
She added, “We need more strikes across the union movement, and we need them to be longer. This government has made it clear that it’s digging in for a fight, so we have to meet that challenge, and take confidence in our strength.
“We need to turn 1 February into the beginning of an escalated fight against the government.”
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