Civil servants strike reports

Members of the PCS civil servants’ union took strike action today to oppose the changes to the civil service compensation scheme (redundancy agreement). More reports to follow. BarkingManagement abandoned plans to open to people signing on and opened late for appointments, as most PCS workers stayed away in Barking. PCS branch secretary Outer East London Dave Spagnol said:“Thanks to pressure from PCS, management have made a number of concessions to their plans to cut the civil service compensation scheme.

“But the fact remains that redundancy payments would be reduced for a large number of our members and very importantly there is no provision at all for people who volunteer for redundancy, where payments will be at the discretion of government departments.
“This is likely to mean no one will volunteer for redundancy and departments will then make the most recent entrants redundant and make huge savings in the cost of job cuts. It will also mean that younger people won’t have jobs.”

Birkenhead
Along with our colleagues across the civil and public service, PCS members in Birkenhead showed massive support for action in defence of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme on 8 and 9 March. More members came along to picket and support the picket line than actually went into work, as 98% of members struck.
Dave Lunn, Chair PCS Land Registry Branch, personal capacity

The action was also well supported across Land Registry, and indeed across PCS as a whole, which has undoubtedly had a massive impact on the delivery of the services that PCS members provide.

This sends a clear message to the government that PCS members will not allow them to tear up our contracted accrued rights without a fight.

If the changes to the compensation scheme are allowed to go through, they would result in a massive swathe of job cuts and privatisation as we would become cheaper to sack.
Our message is, if the government want to save money on redundancy payments, there is a simple solution… stop making public servants redundant!

It is crucial however, that the pressure is kept on the government as we send them a message that they need to get back around the table and reach agreement with PCS. Members are braced for a further rolling programme of strike action and action short of strike if called.

After the picket line, members from the branch attended a rally in Liverpool to hear the PCS general secretary explain that support across the country had been overwhelming. He reminded members how previous action had led to victories on sick pay, pensions and job protection. He then called upon the government to come up with a seventh “final offer” on the compensation scheme, which would be acceptable to PCS members.

In our branch, we will continue to build and deliver support for the campaign in defence of our compensation scheme, our jobs and our futures. Members know that as long as we continue to stand together, we can win!

Birmingham
Birmingham Socialist Party visited PCS picket lines at Selly Oak, Northfield and Erdington Job Centre Plus and the OFWAT office.

Few members went in at the Job Centre Plus offices except managers, non-members and some fixed-term contract workers. The pickets spoken to were quite clear about why they were out on strike. They saw attacks on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme as the precursor to large scale redundancies being bought about by privatisation.

After picket duty about 200 PCS members had a brief march through Birmingham city centre before attending a rally addressed by the Birmingham City Council UNISON branch secretary (themselves facing large redundancies), the NUT, FBU and Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of PCS. Chris got a thunderous round of applause when he called on civil servants not to vote for any candidate at the general election who didn’t back the PCS campaign to defend jobs, services and the Compensation Scheme.

17 papers were sold overall and the Socialist Party strike leaflet and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition leaflets were well received.

Greater Manchester
Customs, DWP, Ministry of Justice, Equalities and many others held picket lines across the conurbation and city centre in one of the most public disputes in recent years. The strikes themselves were up to 95% solid on a successful first day of strike action for PCS-organised civil service workers in Greater Manchester.

Management are clearly desperately looking for a bit of ‘good news’ from their scabby point of view, to the extent that DWP managers escorted Royal Mail managers across picket lines after ordinary posties refused to deliver mail past strikers! It must have made a change for the RM managers to be doing deliveries instead of victimising postal workers…

We visited picket lines across Manchester, Salford and Bury, meeting angry and determined PCS members everywhere! Youth Fight for Jobs and TUSC were well-received, as was the socialist, and a Tamil Solidarity speaker will address one of the main PCS branches in the near future.

Lancashire
Reports from pickets all around Lancashire are of absolutely solid support for the action with members overwhelmingly coming out to strike and I’m sure they will again tomorrow.

Emily Kelly
There’s a lot of anger about what Tessa Jowell said [that a majority of PCS members refused to strike], it’s not true and not what’s being reported from across the country.

We’ve got loads of non-members join, and FDA and Prospect members joining PCS because they feel disillusioned with their own leaderships.

The rally in Preston had good support with up to 70 attending, including a speaker from the NUT and activists from the trades councils in the county.

Other trade unions are supporting us; an attack on one public-sector union is an attack on all!

Newcastle
The first day of the strike in Newcastle was very lively and many picket lines were well attended. Tyne View DWP picketers gave us an exceedingly warm welcome and were even asking to buy our papers before we dished them out.

Branch Rep Neil Simpson was exceedingly pleased with the turnout. He told us that the leadership of “Unison should their head out of the arse of New Labour and start defending its members”.

The branch’s new banner, as PCS member Dave Stead eagerly pointed out, bore the slogan “Fighting for your benefit” which reflects the branches attitude to its own members, state pensioners and the wider issues.

We visited other pickets such as Benton Park View HMRC. Kevin McHugh Branch Secretary and NEC pointed out that, “people are starting to see the injustice”, whilst referring to the solid strike.

New PCS lay member Jan Bachini added that, “they have no other choice than to strike” and “we have to make a stand”.

At the Cobalt Park View picket line PCS Regional Organiser and Socialist Party member Julie Young managed to convince two members to turn around and support the strike and even signed up two people to the union!

Paul Phillips, Newcastle Socialist Party

For more reports from picket lines visit our English & Welsh sister site:

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