STRIKERS CALL FOR UNITED ACTION –to defend the public sector

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Civil Servants on the second day of their successful 48-hour strike yesterday called for all public service workers to join in united strike action.

Over 250,000 civil servants were out on strike right across the country against cuts in redundancy pay and against job losses of up to 100,000!

In London an open top ‘Battle Bus’ plastered with PCS flags and banners megaphoned demands to the passing pedestrians.

Zita Holbourne from the PCS National Executive kept the slogans ringing out through the streets: ‘No job cuts, support the PCS strikers! Fighting against cuts in the redundancy scheme! No job cuts on the cheap!’

Speaking to News Line on the top of the Battle Bus, Zita said: ‘A public sector alliance would be powerful.

‘We do have an alliance with other unions and we support other public sector unions because we are in a similar struggle.

‘Lots of other unions have pledged support for our strike.

‘It is essential that the next generation have jobs.

‘Any of the attacks on the public services not only have an effect on the workers but also on the people that use those services and for the future generations of workers looking for employment within the public sector.

‘We did not cause the economic crisis and we should not have to pay for it.

‘We are already in a situation where the services at the Job Centres that you could have got a few years ago are not there any more.

‘Everything is done over the phone and it is very difficult to speak to a person face to face.

‘If the job cuts go ahead then I don’t see how they could run the services, I don’t see how they could operate.

‘There probably won’t be Job Centres at all.’

One of the first picket lines the Battle Bus stopped at was at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

PCS member Mike Deane spoke out angrily against cuts to pensions, saying: ‘When I started I was a true blooded civil servant who signed the Official Secrets Act.

‘I have worked in the civil service for thirty-five years. I started when I was seventeen and have always accepted the fact that, like for like, we are paid less than people doing equivalent jobs in the private sector.

‘This was accepted with the knowledge that at the end of it we are looked after with a decent pension to make up for a lower wage throughout your career.

‘It is not right or fair to start changing these conditions now, not after I have invested 35 years into this!’

The Battle Bus continued its tour of the picket lines and was cheered at each stop.

When we stopped at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, PCS member Michael Galbraith had a defiant message.

‘I believe what we are doing is right. We have to fight for our conditions and we will keep fighting until we win!’

The Battle Bus then stopped outside the Passport Office where we were met by very lively pickets.

Adrian McDonnell, the branch organiser for PCS at the Passport Office, said: ‘This is the biggest walk-out that we have had since 1987.

‘When we signed up to our contracts we thought they would be honoured.

‘However, the government has unilaterally abrogated the terms and conditions that we have signed up to.

‘We believe this to be unfair, unreasonable and a precursor to massive job cuts on the cheap.’

It was at this point that PCS General Secretary Mark Sewotka joined the picket, and then came aboard the Battle Bus to tour other picket lines.

Asked about a public sector alliance, he told News Line: ‘We are putting out a call later in the year for joint strike action across the whole public sector.

‘We moved a resolution that got successfully carried at the TUC conference earlier in the year that calls for all public sector unions to come together and have joint strike action across the whole public sector.

‘If all the public sector unions did take strike action together it would be the most significant development in the trade union movement.

‘We are stronger if we fight together and we are going to build on what we are doing today.

‘The Labour Party no longer represents the interests of the working class.

‘We are in the process of consulting our members to stand a PCS candidate – though not in this election.

‘I want a socialist government and I am in favour of methodical work to politicise trade unions and give working people a voice.’

The Battle Bus went on to visit a strong picket line outside the Law Courts on Fleet Street and then on to where PCS workers and supporters were gathering to begin their march.

An HM Revenue and Customs worker Gayle Matthews, who is a PCS union rep, said: ‘This system that we live under is insufficient because it can not look after the most vulnerable people in society.

‘I live in Northern Ireland that is under a devolved government, but still most of the decisions are made by Westminster.

‘Both the local government in Northern Ireland and Westminster are pushing an agenda of cuts in the public services and we have a social responsibility to oppose that agenda and protect public services. Socialism is the only thing that will fill that void’.

Another PCS union rep for DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) said: ‘I think that there is so much discontent within the working class that sooner or later there will be a nationwide strike of everyone in this country.

‘I would advocate a workers government and make the fat cats pay for what they have done to this country’.

The march, which was over 2,000 people strong, left the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park and took to the streets, where passing cars tooted their horns in support and pedestrians cheered to see the civil servants out in force defending their jobs and services.

Early in the morning, on the picket line outside the Natural History Museum, Robert How told News Line: ‘We are all out with the rest of PCS members and are disgusted with the way the government is trying to tear up the compensation scheme.

‘We are striking because that is breach of contract.

‘We are concerned about jobs at such an amazing place as this national treasure, the Natural History Museum.

‘We have had our best year ever and now are being asked to make more efficiency savings.

‘We are being punished for the ills of the banking system.

‘Why should museums like this be put in jeopardy because of their greed?’

Catherine Craig, PCS official, said: ‘The changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme will make the services within the museum more attractive to privateers.’