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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 March 2010

PCS Budget Day action

Following their well-supported two day strike on 8 and 9 March, up to 200,000 civil servants in the PCS union will be on strike again on budget day - Wednesday 24 March. This action is to defend contracts that guarantee a certain level of redundancy pay if civil servants lose their jobs.

John McInally, national vice-president PCS, personal capacity

The vast majority of civil servants are on low pay. They refuse to sit back and see their contracts ripped up because of an economic crisis not of their making, while the bankers are again making vast profits and paying themselves obscene bonuses. When working people demanded that bankers have their bonuses stopped, Labour ministers argued it could not be done because they have legally binding contracts: the hypocrisy is sickening!

PCS is asking other unions to join rallies and protests on 24 March in order to send the strongest possible message to Labour, the Tories and Liberals, that working people will resist and defeat their attempt to make us pay for their crisis, with cuts in jobs and services.

The next PCS strike, on Wednesday 24 March, was moved from 19 March as originally planned, because 24 March is Budget Day, the Labour government's big set-piece before the general election.

This is an unmissable opportunity to maximise pressure to secure a settlement that protects PCS members' interests and helps to stop whoever wins the general election driving through job cuts and privatisation on the cheap, the real agenda behind the planned changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.

This strike is part of a month of action, disruption and political lobbying, endorsed by membership ballot, to defend the scheme.

PCS members delivered a solid two days of action on 8 and 9 March, but know more pressure has to be applied to disabuse minister Tessa Jowell of the idea that she can just shut up shop and refuse to negotiate.

As we await the starting gun for the general election, national action on Budget Day will send an unmistakable message that PCS is prepared to build and link industrial and political pressure to demonstrate that we will not go away until Jowell decides to do what she advocated during the postal dispute - for management and union to sit down and negotiate a settlement.

The 19th will see a day of public activity and, critically, political lobbying of MPs in their constituencies. It is an act of political incompetence, leaving aside any other issue, for the Labour government to attack low-paid workers in the run-up to a general election. Over 160 MPs, mainly Labour, have signed the Early Day Motion condemning cuts to the compensation scheme.

Tessa Jowell and Gordon Brown say this dispute is about cutting redundancy payments for the tiny number of highly paid civil servants. But what it is really about is ripping up the contractual redundancy payment rights of low-paid workers that could see them lose tens of thousands of pounds, up to a third of their entitlement, as the government prepares the way for job cuts and privatisation on the cheap.

All PCS branches will now build for a strong day of action on the 19th. National civil service strike action on Budget Day will have a huge impact industrially and politically.

PCS's legal challenge to the government's proposals will also be heard in judicial review this month, further increasing the pressure.

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In The Socialist 17 March 2010:

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