Britain: Civil servants strike to defend jobs and services

The Blair government is putting the lessons it has learned in Iraq to good use in attacking workers at home. They have unleashed a campaign of shock and awe against their own workers in the civil service.

The Blair government is putting the lessons it has learned in Iraq to good use in attacking workers at home. They have unleashed a campaign of shock and awe against their own workers in the civil service.

Over the summer Gordon Brown casually announced plans for the biggest campaign of attacks on the civil service in the whole of history. After playing a game of chicken with the opposition to see who would go highest, Brother Brown outdid the Tories and emerged victorious having promised to sack one fifth of the service over the next three years – that is 104,000 staff from across all departments.

In reality the government is playing Russian roulette. They have been heaping attacks on public sector workers for years and people are sick of it – the latest also includes, 20,000 jobs being relocated across the country from London and the South East, and a new proposal to change current terms and conditions, increase working hours, raise the age of retirement, and restrict the number of sick days people can take.

The PCS union balloted all 265,000 members urging a bold yes vote to strengthen it’s hand in negotiations. The members responded with a massive majority of two to one vote in favour of strike action. The union has called a one-day strike to take place on November 5th – this will be important in building the morale of the members for the struggle ahead.

The government are trying to build public support for their actions – they have said that they are driving through these cuts in order to improve the service – work that one out! How can cuts possibly improve the service? They have said that money will be diverted from ‘wasteful’ behind the scenes work into more frontline services. They are not telling us that for every one on the front line there has to be at least another one behind the scenes backing them up. These cut are designed to save money by running the service down and nothing more.

The governments plans will devastate services which every member of society uses – anyone applying for a passport, receiving tax credits, or sitting a driving test will suffer from these cuts. And of course the first to suffer are the civil service workers themselves who are right at the point of attack. If the cuts go through the employer will be in a strong position to launch an all-out offensive on the conditions that these workers have built up over generations of struggle.

It is essential that the whole movement gets behind this struggle, and gives its full support to the civil service workers. This dispute will not be a pushover. The government has shown in the past that it is determined to take the unions on. One way or another only an organised and determined fight will put a stop to these plans and save the jobs.

But this struggle is also a political one. The Labour Government has been working in the interests of the bosses for years – now they have turned on their own workers. We have to put a stop to this now. The unions must use this dispute to mobilise against the Tories who are leading our party, to reclaim it and put forward socialist policies in the interests of working people.

Victory to the civil service workers!

From the British Socialist Appeal,
November 2004