by Steve Ryan
Readers of The Commune may be aware that PCS members have voted to take action over the threats to the Civil Service Compensation scheme. This in essence means that 250,000 public sector workers will be out on strike on 8th and 9th March.
The strike is hugely important. The issue is about making it cheaper to sack civil servants. Whilst it is always unacceptable to sack workers, the relentless purge of the public sector makes no sense at all in a recession, with services suffering billions uncollected in tax. Indeed even the London Evening Standard ran an article on public sector pensions, pointing out how low they were and that any attempt to reduce them would simply mean an increase in benefit claims and hence no saving to the exchequer.
Hundreds of MPs have also signed an Early Day Motion about the scheme.
The strike will back this up industrially and put further strain on Labour’s election plans. It is eminently winnable, therefore.
However it means that in this next week activists must hold meetings, distribute literature etc to ensure maximum support on the days. The result was very good but turnout was low so there is work to be done, and indeed the bosses are already doing everything they can to dissuade workers from striking.
It must be made clear what happens after the strike. There is to be a overtime ban but there are also vague hints if further strikes.
Here the union’s National Executive Committee needs to be very careful. Members are looking to rolling action and there are major issues in several departments around job losses that link in with the CSCS action. Attempts to make this just about CSCS and one or two days strikes will be ill received. There is in some activists minds as well the thought that the literature says ‘no job cuts on the cheap’. Surely PCS should be against cuts, not just arguing about the cost?
All told however this is a hugely important strike, It will have hundreds of thousands of workers out, effectively in protest against government cuts. At the same time, RMT are also balloting members, and 20,000 council workers face redundancy.
Communists should be making the link and arguing for maximum solidarity with PCS workers and linking up strikes within public and private sectors. Greece currently shows the way. It will also be an important time to argue for workers’ self management as the real alternative to cuts or privatisation