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Civil servants march against cuts and privatisation
Workers from three government departments are marching in London on 12 October against the outsourcing and privatisation of hundreds of jobs. The attacks on staff in DEFRA (the agriculture department) and the former DfES departments of Innovation, Universities and Skills and for Children, Schools and Families are typical of what has prompted the PCS union's national executive to ballot for national industrial action. This ballot result is expected to be announced on 23 October.
In DEFRA, management intend to outsource estates, reprographics, post room, messengers and security, despite fears that services there would deteriorate and costs escalate.
In the other two departments, ten support-grade staff who had formerly worked in the DfES found out in July this year that they are to be moved to the private sector. This was done without consultation with the unions.
Since the announcement, more that 600 protest letters from staff of all grades have been sent to the permanent secretary, condemning this privatisation which is due to take place on 1 November.
The union has called a ballot through both of the ex-DfES departments, for a strike on 31 October unless management backs down.
Mick Philipsz spoke to Sheila Coote, who has been working for eight years in the department. She became a civil servant because a friend told her the department: "takes care of its people".
"When I look around as a support grade, a messenger, I see staff undermined by continual cuts and by the use of agencies and consultants. The politicians may make the policies but the civil servants do the work.
"When Labour came into power I was over the moon. But in the last few years I've been disillusioned. You only have to look at the privatisation of the NHS, which has affected me and my family. The government doesn't seem to understand that if you don't invest in people the decline in public services is only going to get worse.
"Brown talks about 'British values'. What values have you got in a department like my own where people aren't being treated respectfully at all?
"One thing has made me feel really good. My fellow workers have been brilliant. I've had support from people of all grades, including those that are paid a lot more than me. Which is why I'm going on the march next week and why I hope I'll be able to persuade my colleagues to go out on strike at the end of the month."
In The Socialist 11 October 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
What we think
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis