PCS to strike on May 1st – calls on TUC and public sector unions to join action

Mark Serwotka, PCS leader (centre), with a group outside the Ministry of Defence yesterday morning
Mark Serwotka, PCS leader (centre), with a group outside the Ministry of Defence yesterday morning

Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) leaders have named May 1st as a second national strike day by 200,000 civil servants.

The PCS is also calling on the TUC to make May Day a Day of Action for Public Services.

News of the decision was given to News Line on the picket line outside the Ministry of Defence HQ in London by PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka during yesterday’s strike by Defence and Passport Office workers.

Serwotka told News Line: ‘There are 20,000 members on strike today from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Passports Service (IPS).

‘A further 20,000 in the Department of Health (DoH), Land Registry, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and Learning Skills Council (LSC) are starting a month-long work to rule today.

‘Low paid workers are being asked to accept below more than half the rate of inflation.

‘This is completely outrageous.

‘Public sector workers are being asked to pay the price of the government’s fiscal policies at a time when people in the City are getting billions in bonuses.

‘All of this is at a time when we are fighting redundancies and privatisation.

‘Today’s action is the latest phase of our national struggle with the government.

‘Yesterday, our national executive unanimously agreed to call a further national strike on the 1st May.

‘We’ve called on the TUC to make May Day a Day of Action for Public Services.

‘We are calling on all public sector unions to coordinate campaigns against pay restraint in the public sector.’

Ministry of Defence PCS shop steward Phill Rowe told News Line: ‘We’ve had a good turn out today and there is a lot of support from the other unions.

‘All civil servants are fed up with being pushed around.

‘A civil servant is supposed to be neutral but we’re being used as government pawns all the time.

‘We’re expected to sit back and take the flak and yet we’re getting low pay for it.

‘I think that we should continue taking action until such time as the government realise we are serious about getting decent pay and conditions.

‘The government should give us a pay rise in line with the real cost of living.’

PCS DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) group executive committee member Matt Wells joined the MoD picket line off Whitehall.

He said: ‘I’ve come to support the defence workers.

‘It looks like we at DEFRA are also going to be in conflict over pay this year.

‘Last year, we had a pay settlement imposed. It was below inflation.

‘With Gordon Brown’s recent announcement on the public sector pay cap, it looks as though our pay is going to be eroded this year as well.

‘We have to take a firm stand. Without that, our pay will keep getting eroded. We need to scrap the cap.

‘We’re waiting to see the response from management to our pay claim that’s going into DEFRA today.

‘Our claim looks to redress the balance in terms of pay erosion and to make sure our pay keeps its real value in line with the cost of living.’

In a message to striking PCS members as they approach May Day, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘Your struggle is our struggle and we offer our support because our two great unions have so much in common.

‘UNISON and PCS have so much in common – members working side-by-side in local government, the health service, the Scottish Parliament and Assembly for Wales, the probation service.

‘We both have proud traditions of looking to secure fairness and justice for those who deliver our vital public services.

‘We cannot allow our public services to be destroyed by private markets – or our people handed over to private-sector profit.

‘Your struggle is our struggle. Like PCS, we will take action to defend our members.’

UNISON did not respond to the question of whether it would support a day of action on May 1.

Asked to respond to the PCS call to action, GMB general union public sector national secretary Brian Strutton said: ‘We won’t be calling a strike the same day.

‘Mark Serwotka raised it at the TUC last week but he was told by everyone there was no way we could call strike action in such a short space of time.

‘However, there is growing and serious concern across the whole public sector as pay offers are coming in at about half the rate of inflation.

‘As we move towards the end of summer, there is bound to be action by different unions.’

A Transport and General Workers Union spokeswoman said: ‘We are working through the TUC and as a union on behalf of our members in the public sector.

‘We have been dismayed at the recent poor pay offers that have been made for local government and other public sector workers.’

Asked what is the TGWU going to do about a day of action on May Day, the spokeswoman said ‘that’s our quote’ and would not elaborate further.

The TUC was unable to provide a comment.