Parliament Square yesterday reverberated with the slogans of hundreds of Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) workers who had joined hundreds of thousands of their colleagues for a nationwide one-day strike.
All over London and the rest of the country, pickets were outside government departments, including the Houses of Parliament, Customs and Excise, the National Museums, Home Office, Job Centres etc.
Nigel Green, President of the PCS culture sector, said: ‘The NEC is meeting tomorrow to discuss the next step. This dispute isn’t really about redundancy in the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, it’s about jobs, because we are collectively quite expensive.
‘They intend to sack hundreds of thousands of civil servants and it will be cheaper to get rid of us if the redundancy compensation is reduced. So this struggle is about job security.’
Addressing the crowd, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, said: ‘The Labour government are behaving disgracefully. We want them to honour their own contracts and not cut public sector jobs.’
He added: ‘We are standing up to bullying politicians in every marginal seat. You won’t get our votes by sacking on the cheap.’
Bringing greetings from the Greek Union of Intracom factory workers and referring to the Greek general strikes, Vasilis Sylaidis said: ‘The Papandreou government needs to be replaced. In Greece we need a new leadership in the unions because they are supposed to lead a fight and they are not doing it.
After explaining that private banks in Greece were borrowing money at one per cent interest and then lending it out at six per cent, Vasilis added: ‘The Greek people want the banks nationalised, expropriated with no compensation to the owner profiteers.’
Earlier in the day on the picket lines, striking PCS members were determined to defend their jobs.
Archway Towers PCS branch secretary, Austin Harney, told News Line: ‘We’re having quite an impact here at the Offices of the Public Guardian. They want to turn us into a call centre.
‘There’ll be no face-to-face contact. Our clientele are mentally incapacitated.’
The branch vice-chair, Bill Veirne, went on to say: ‘We safeguard their funds because someone who has a mental handicap needs help if you haven’t the ability to do it for yourself.
‘This office ensures it’s done properly and there’s no abuse. We’re providing a service for the most vulnerable sections of society.
‘If this doesn’t work, we have proposed discontinuous action. RMT’s Bob Crowe has suggested concerted action.’
At the Victoria and Albert Museum picket line, PCS rep Kevin Berry told News Line: ‘Our branch has over 60 members and there is strong support for the strike.
‘I don’t see why we should suffer because of government mismanagement.
‘MPs are paid by the public purse, they still want more and yet they dictate to us how much we should get.’
Patricia Doran, PCS rep for Job Centre Plus at Kings House, Harrow, in north west London, told News Line on the picket line: ‘We are solidly out on strike here.
‘With it being Budget day we hope it is a strong message to the government that we mean business, that we will fight for our conditions of service and not be the scapegoats of the bankers.
‘We want to continue to be a public service and deliver to the general public a good service.
‘From April 1 the Civil Service Compensation Scheme takes effect and it is crucial our demands are met and for Tessa Jowell to negotiate proper terms and conditions.
‘All the public sector service unions need to unite to fight the government’s attack.’