Britain: PCS Strike shows workers’ anger - New Labour attacks poor paid workers

Today civil servants in Britain staged another strike in protest at government measures that will affect pensions, redundancy pay and jobs. It is a sign of the growing militancy of the British workers, who are reaching the limit of what they can take. Socialist Appeal supporters in PCS prepared a leaflet which explains the union case and points the way forward for PCS activists. This can be downloaded here.

Civil servants in Britain were on strike today – the same day that the next national budget was being announced. This 24-hour strike follows a two-day walk out by PCS members on March 8 and 9. All the strikes are in protest against planned changes to the civil service compensation scheme, which covers pensions and redundancy packages.

The government plans to tear up the accrued compensation scheme rights agreed with the union and rob many hard-working public servants of tens of thousands of pounds if made redundant. They put jobs under greater threat than ever before, at a time when all the political parties are planning massive public spending cuts. The changes also open the way to more privatisation because it would be more attractive to private companies seeking to make a profit, by cutting jobs.

This blatant attack by New Labour has caused a mood of blazing anger among this section of workers, who are very poorly paid. The government has insinuated that they are a “privileged” layer, who ought to “make sacrifices” and accept the “same conditions as the private sector.” But there is never any mention of the fact that their wages fall far below those in the private sector and in fact reduce the living standards of many civil servants to what amount to poverty levels.

This explains the firm support of the workers for militant action. Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union walked out of government offices, including the Land Registry, Passport Office, Job Centre Plus, Magistrates Court, Crown Court, Natural England, conservation body JNCC, the DSA, tax office and the Highways Agency – and Parliament itself!

Peterborough regional secretary for the PCS Richard Edwards said: “The changes will see staff robbed of up to a third of their entitlements and lead to loyal civil and public servants losing tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job. Making it easier and cheaper for the next government to slash civil servants will damage services we all rely on.”

Under the leadership of left winger Mark Serwotka, the PCS is giving an excellent example to the entire labour movement. But so far the leaders of New Labour show no sign of giving in. Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling is expected to announce the changes in today’s budget, which is calculated, not to encourage working people to vote Labour in the general election next month, but rather to soothe the nerves of the bankers and capitalists of the City of London.

These sorry “Labour” leaders have shamefully capitulated to the insolent demands of the bankers, handing out billions of public funds to the wealthy crooks in the City to “save the banking [read capitalist] system”, and are now anxious to prove to the Money Markets that they are willing to take “tough measures” to reduce the huge deficit in public finances caused by these massive handouts.

The same leaders who cringe and crawl before the bankers and the rich and give them everything they ask for are now trying to show that they are “strong and resolute” when it comes to attacking the underpaid civil servants and the poorest sections of society who are being asked to pay the bill for the failure of the capitalist system.

The workers of Britain are not fools. They see that the same bankers whose corrupt and speculative practices were responsible for bringing the banking system to its knees have not been punished but rewarded with lavish handouts of public money. They also see that the same Bankers, having calmly pocketed these billions, are now awarding themselves huge bonuses – out of our money.

The spectacle of right wing Labour leaders constantly pandering to the bankers and the City, rushing to grant their every wish – no matter how monstrous – fills ordinary people with disgust and anger. The sight of Alistair Darling appealing to the Men of Money, instead of the working class that votes Labour is calculated to lose Labour the next election and hand over the people of Britain to the tender mercies of the Tories.

This is the historic mission of right-wing Labour leaders: carry out the dirty work for the capitalists, who, once this has been done, will kick them out of office and replace them with the people who really defend their interests. If Brown and Darling have their way, history is going to repeat itself yet again.

The only hope for a change of course is to resist every attempt to foist the bill for the crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of those who can least afford to pay. Every worker, every Labour Party member, must actively support all future actions of the PCS and other unions that are prepared to stand up and fight for the workers’ interests.

It is time to step up the fight, not just against the bosses and the Tories, but also against those closet Tories who, under the discredited banner of “New Labour”, have hijacked the Labour Party, which was formed to represent the interests of the workers in Parliament, and converted into a vehicle for furthering their own careers at the expense of the working class.

Enough is enough! Let us unite to fight the attacks, support workers in struggle and force the Labour leaders to back down. Some people will say: we must not do anything that could help the Tories. We answer: it is the policies and conduct of the “New Labour” leaders that is undermining the Labour Party. If we do not want a Tory government, it is necessary to kick out the careerists and carpet baggers and return Labour to genuine socialist policies.