UNIONS ON THE MARCH! – but General Council to oppose POA resolution

GMB General Secretary PAUL KENNY (centre) at yesterday’s press conference with Marks and Spencer ‘whistleblower’ Tony Goode (left) and his representative MARIA LUDKIN (right)
GMB General Secretary PAUL KENNY (centre) at yesterday’s press conference with Marks and Spencer ‘whistleblower’ Tony Goode (left) and his representative MARIA LUDKIN (right)

CIVIL service union PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka yesterday announced that the union will be balloting 270,000 members across the civil and public services on a programme of national industrial action over the government’s policy to ‘cap’ public sector pay below inflation.

Serwotka said: ‘The strike ballot will commence on the 24th September and end on the 17th October.’

He added: ‘A quarter of our members are on less than £16,500 a year.

‘They cannot make ends meet.

‘The government tries to tell us to grit our teeth and see it through.

‘We reject the notion the government has that families can tighten their belts. There’s no belt left for people to tighten.

‘It’s time for the trade union movement to put this injustice to rights.’

Serwotka said: ‘I can’t pre-empt the ballot, but we’re planning three months of industrial action from November through to the end of January that affects every part of our union.

‘It’s not a one-off, but a series of rolling actions.

‘Other unions are likely to join us.

‘I’m delighted to hear that the NUT has also agreed to ballot for discontinuous industrial action, which should start in November 2008.

‘The University and College Union is considering action and UNISON is in dispute. . .

‘We come here absolutely determined that if they are not going to listen to reasoned argument, they’re going to have to listen to industrial action.’

In answer to a question, about whether he supported the Prison Officers Association’s motion, calling for a series of general strikes to remove the anti-union laws from the statute books, Serwotka said: ‘We support the Prison Officers Association, who face jail if they go on strike, and the sentiments of their motion.

‘But we do not support a series of general strikes.

‘Our view is that the tactic is not correct at the moment.’

TUC leader Brendan Barber told an earlier press conference that the government policy had to change.

He said: ‘It’s economic masochism to try and choke off external inflation by depressing the domestic economy, especially when the credit crunch is already biting hard.

‘That is why the General Council statement says the Bank of England must now start aggressively to cut interest rates.’

He called for the government to increase the winter fuel allowance and to tax the rich.

He said: ‘We are calling for a new minimum tax rate for those earning above £100,000 a year.’

He also called for a ‘Windfall Tax on the huge profits of energy companies’.

Asked would the TUC support the POA motion on Trade Union Freedom, he said: ‘The General Council strongly oppose that motion.

‘It would involve unions taking action that is unlawful. . .’

The General Council will be opposing the motion.

Keith Sonnet, deputy-general secretary of UNISON, told a press conference: ‘The backdrop to this TUC is the current economic situation and what the government is going to do to help working people.’

He said: ‘We want the government to get its act together. Squabbling amongst government ministers is not good.

‘We’re not calling for a change of leader, we’re calling for a change of direction, a change of policy, a change of approach.’

The GMB general union also held a press conference in Brighton, where they presented the ‘whistleblower’ Tony Goode, who was a customer loyalty manager and was sacked after working for Marks and Spencer for 25 years.

Paul Kenny, the GMB’s general secretary, said: ‘We are offering an insight into the world of Marks and Spencer, in comparison with how people were treated years ago.’

Maria Ludkin, who represented Tony Goode at his disciplinary hearing, said: ‘I was surprised at the level of surveillance of staff at M&S.

‘They monitor every single key stroke on a computer and they referred to phone conversations that Tony says were not made on the work phone.’

She said that there were cameras everywhere in head office and she concluded: ‘I’m surprised at the amount of time spent surveying staff.’