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What We Think
Job Cuts - Now Is The Time To Act
GORDON BROWN'S message to public sector workers this week couldn't have been any clearer: "You will pay for New Labour's public finance crisis by losing your jobs".
Despite all the hype by the press, Brown has made it clear that tens of thousands of civil servants will lose their jobs as a result of the growing black hole in New Labour's fiscal accounts. It is projected that the budget deficit (the gap between government income and expenditure) will reach £37 billion this year. This is combined with the largest trade deficit (the difference between imports and exports overall) in British history.
Some union leaders (up to now counted by some as members of the "awkward squad") dismissed the threat to civil service workers' jobs as just a "few back room posts" and publicly welcomed the budget. The worst was probably Kevin Curran, the general secretary of the GMB union who gushed with praise and said: "GMB members that provide front-line services every day will welcome the emphasis on service delivery rather than bureaucracy".
Dave Prentis of UNISON wasn't much better when he described it as a: "Win, win budget for people and public services". This was at the same time as Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS - the union most in the firing line, called it a "day of the long knives".
He could have used that phrase to describe some of his fellow general secretaries, not just Brown's budget day speech. But Curran and Prentis' disgraceful comments are more to do with what they perceive as an opportunity to promote Brown as an alternative to Tony Blair.
Not just 'backroom jobs'
BUT THE last word isn't with the union leaders, it is with workers in the workplaces. PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions, already in battle with New Labour over pay, will not lightly take the threat to 30,000 out of 130,000 of their jobs. Many other jobs are under threat, including 10,500 to be cut by merging the Inland Revenue with Customs and Excise.
This budget has propelled the PCS into the front rank of the fight to defend the public sector. It is not so just the so-called "backroom jobs" that are under threat, it is the very existence of decent public services.
This government is preparing for what the Financial Times called the "second stage of privatisation".
The Gershon "efficiency" report and the Lyons "relocation" report were warnings of what we can expect if there is no organised fight to turn back the tide of attacks on the public sector.
The PCS has already successfully persuaded the TUC to organise its first demonstration in years on 19 June against attacks on pensions. Why not turn this demo into one that calls for the defence of the public sector?
This could be part of a campaign leading to industrial action by the public-sector unions. New Labour have opened up a massive attack on the NHS with foundation hospitals; they have attacked the fire service, despite the willingness of ordinary firefighters to struggle; they have continued to oversee the ruination of the railways and are proposing to introduce regional pay variations in the public sector.
The list of New Labour's crimes goes on. It is about time that the leadership of the unions used their huge authority and acted in unison for once.
PCS can be at the forefront of this historic campaign. Now is the time to act.
No compulsory job cuts
No job cuts under the disguise of job 'relocation'
No job relocation without union agreement
For united action by unions and users to defend public services.
In The Socialist 27 March 2004:
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