Around 12,000 workers in the PCS union struck on Friday of last week.
The action united 8,500 workers in the Department for Transport (DfT) with 3,500 in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
They are fighting redundancies and privatisation, as well as office closures in DfT and performance management policies in Defra.
DfT workers took to picket lines early, while Defra strikers walked out at 1.30pm. DfT workers in Nottingham held a barbecue on the picket line.
In Glasgow branch secretary Willie Telfer described the Tories’ financial case as “ludicrous”. He told Socialist Worker, “Only a general strike will beat the Tories.”
In Brighton striker Steve Banfield explained, “The case for closure is very weak. It’s a massive gamble on their part. But if we don’t fight now we won’t have a job in a year’s time.”
And in Blackburn, on the Darwen and Atherton picket line, striker Darren Gerrard told Socialist Worker, “This is a means to soften us up for privatisation.” So far, 17 from the two small offices are booked up to go to the TUC demonstration.
PCS activists in London organised a 100-strong lunchtime protest. Defra strikers said the 1.30pm walkout left their building empty. PCS Southern branch secretary Neeru Chaudhari called the attacks “disgraceful”.
“People are angry,” she said, “having to think about their families. Some are worried they’ll have to move from where they’re settled to find work.”
David Sherman was with a delegation from DVLA Chelmsford office in Essex, which faces closure. “The call centres aren’t adequate,” he said. “But we’ll be gone, so they won’t be able to transfer people to us. People are angry, and they feel undervalued.”
Home Office workers joined the protest in support. Graeme Johnson, Home Office Greater London PCS branch secretary, explained, “After redundancies, agency staff are brought in to fill the gap. It’s about casualising the workforce.
“But it’s our living standards—we’ve lost our pensions, we’re suffering a pay freeze—people can’t make ends meet. We need a general strike.”
The DWP group executive of the PCS union is recommending that Jobcentre Plus call centre workers vote to accept a management offer.
This is a mistake. The offer falls short of our demands for full access to flexible working. There is not a sufficient increase in staffing either. And call times are still retained as office targets rather than individual targets.
The executive voted for the move on Tuesday of last week.The dispute saw 6,000 workers across 32 offices strike last month. The only person on the group executive who is affected voted with two others against. Management has conceded ground every time strikes have happened or been threatened.
Demobilising members when they want to fight is counter-productive as the union gears up for “mass action” this autumn over pay and pensions.
Members’ meetings are lined up in all 32 offices followed by a meeting of reps. Members will then be balloted on the offer. These meetings must send the message loud and clear to the executive that we have not been beaten and refuse to be sold out.
Dave Owens, PCS DWP group executive (pc)
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