UP to 270,000 civil and public servants from across the UK are set to launch a month of industrial action, with a 48 hour strike beginning next Monday, in a dispute over imposed changes to redundancy terms.
Strike action will involve civil and public services every week of next month from Monday, following strong support in a ballot which saw 63.4% of those voting backing strike action and 81.4% supporting an overtime ban.
The strikes, which will involve Jobcentre staff, tax workers, coastguards, border agency officials, courts staff and driving test examiners, are a result of the government and Cabinet Office imposing unilateral changes to the civil service compensation scheme.
The civil servants union the PCS states that ‘With all the main political parties planning deep spending cuts, the union fears that the cuts to the scheme will lead to tens of thousands of job losses on the cheap.’
The union’s national executive committee will be meeting next week on 2, 3 and 4 March to finalise further strike dates, which could include national walkouts and targeted strike action.
However the issue at the heart of this situation, and all civil servants know this, is that this is a time when hundreds of thousands, if not several million public sector workers are being targeted for the sack.
In the situation of a developing world wide capitalist slump, a job lost will never be recovered or regained, it is gone forever, as will be the living standards involved.
The issue facing all workers is the mobilisation of the full strength of the trade unions to defend every job, not just to defend the current rate for their sale.
In the economic and political situation that is developing there is every opportunity for doing this.
A recent BBC survey showed that up to 200,000 local authority workers will lose their jobs as the government and the local authorities slash their spending.
The North Yorkshire County Council is warning that it will be taking tough decisions since there is a £40m hole in its budget, and it expects a five per cent cut in its government grant. The council is also facing a drop in income from investments coupled with a surge in demand for its services.
In a briefing with the media this week, chief executive John Marsden warned that between 300 and 500 jobs will go.
This is the situation of every council and every local authority.
At the same time the NHS budget is due to be slashed by billions, meaning that scores of District General Hospitals are threatened with closure, and tens of thousands of NHS workers jobs are threatened.
It is the same with the Royal Mail and the fire service. In just one area of the FBU, Essex, the establishment is 954 firefighters and fire officers, but this year the numbers are being run down to an all time low of 890.
An FBU official told News Line: ‘The cuts in firefighters and fire stations have been savage. We have tried to defend the frontline service by selecting action which will not make a dangerous situation even riskier but we cannot sit back and watch fire chiefs continually cut the frontline 999 service and put at risk the lives of fire crews and members of the public. We have to speak out and expose this dangerous policy.’
The same situation has emerged in the private sector, at BA, Corus, and GM, and at AstraZeneca where 1,200 job have just been destroyed.
The bottom line of this situation is that the union leaders, like the civil service union leaders, must demand a special TUC general council meeting, and put down a motion to call a general strike to defend wages, jobs, and basic rights.
This general strike must bring down the Brown government and bring in a workers government that will defend every job by carrying out socialist policies and bringing in a socialist planned economy.