OVER quarter of a million civil and public servants will stage a 48-hour national strike on March 8-9.
Up to 270,000 members of the PCS trade union will take part in the action, it was announced yesterday, following a 63.4 per cent vote in favour of a strike and an 81.4 per cent vote in favour of an overtime ban.
Jobcentre staff, tax workers, coastguards, border agency officials, courts staff and driving test examiners were all balloted over unilateral changes to the civil service compensation scheme by the government and Cabinet Office.
The changes will see staff robbed of up to a third of their entitlements and see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job.
The government is looking to save £500 million through the changes, based on the number of jobs it has axed over the last three years.
With all the main political parties planning deep spending cuts, the PCS fears that the cuts to the scheme ‘will lead to tens of thousands of job losses on the cheap’.
Further strikes will be planned at a meeting of the PCS national executive committee next week.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka commented yesterday: ‘These cuts, which will see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job, are more about crude politicking than making savings.
‘We have suggested ways in which the government can make these savings whilst protecting the rights of existing members, yet it seems intent on penalising the people who keep this country running.
‘With civil and public service jobs increasingly at risk, this is a cynical attempt to cut jobs on the cheap, which will ultimately damage the services we all rely on.
‘The government needs to recognise the depth of anger which has been demonstrated by this ballot result and find the political will to negotiate a settlement that avoids a sustained campaign of industrial action.’
The PCS has more than 300,000 members in over 200 government departments and agencies.
It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector.
• Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, yesterday spoke up for teachers.
She said: ‘Teachers are working unacceptably long hours and the pressure to do so remains as a result of the endless initiatives and pressures that are now the hallmark of our schools.
‘Teachers have always worked long hours; it is not a job that has clearly defined start and finish times. Teachers are aware of this and are used to going that extra mile for their pupils.
‘However, the long pointless hours spent on paperwork for accountability purposes are both exhausting and demoralising and have nothing to do with educating children and young people.
‘The government needs to let teachers do what they do best – teach.’