By Nick Clark
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Civil service workers walk out against 2 percent pay insult

This article is over 1 years, 4 months old
PCS union members at two government agencies kicked off the second week of rolling strikes in the civil service
Issue 2836
Workers on the picket line holding PCS union flags and placards outside West Didsbury Driving Test Centre

Driving examiners on West Didsbury picket line. Bosses’ pay offer failed to impress them (Picture: Sarah Ensor)

The second week of rolling strikes in the civil service began on Monday with action by workers in the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and the Rural Payments Agency.

The strikers, members of the PCS union, are fighting after government bosses demanded workers accept a pay increase of just 2 percent. That’s a huge real-terms pay cut. And it comes after a decade of similar pay freezes and below-inflation increases.

Darren Gerrard is PCS branch secretary at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in north west England. He told Socialist Worker, “We’ve got members of our union who are full time civil servants who are having to go to food banks.

“It’s a disgrace when there’s so much wealth being created by private companies and energy providers.” But, he added, “For us it’s not just about pay and pensions.

“We’re also supporting public services. The more they run down pay and conditions, the more they stifle wages, the more likely it is that we fall into private hands.”

The strikes are part of a rolling plan of action after some 100,000 PCS members voted to strike. PCS leaders say this puts maximum pressure on the government, while those taking action are supported with full strike pay.

DVSA workers in the north west, Yorkshire and Humber are set to strike until Saturday of this week, halting driving tests and vehicle inspections.

Workers in three Rural Payments Agency (RPA) offices are also set to strike until Friday, delaying subsidy payments to farmers. There are also set to be strikes by traffic officers, who patrol motorways, in London and south east England, and passport officers at some major airports.

DVSA workers also struck in Scotland and north east England last week, as did traffic officers across the north of England, and RPA workers again.

Eric Bushell, another DVSA striker in the north west, told Socialist Worker that this week, “There are a lot of people out. We’ve had a lot of support throughout the region, and plenty of support from people in companies nearby.”

And Darren said, “We’ve got picket lines all over the north west, and a tonne of support. We’re getting a lot of support from driving instructors even though they can’t bring tests in. One put some money in a nearby cafe for us to get something to eat and drink.”

He added, “There’s not much in the way of tests going out, and Yorkshire is strong too. There’s been a huge picket line in Halifax, with members of the RMT and CWU unions there in support.”

The strikes have been successful and well-supported. They show PCS members are up for taking action. But strikers also know the government won’t back down easily.

Eric said union members were preparing for a “long drawn out situation.” And Darren said, “It doesn’t look as if there are any talks going on—the Tories are playing hard ball.”

But the strikes also come at a time when workers in other services and industries—such as the NHS, rail and Royal Mail. And Darren added, “There’s going to be strikes all over the place, and off the back of that there’s going to be a huge movement for economic and social justice.”

Civil service workers can hit the government even harder if they all come out together—and call for other striking workers to join them.

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