The Socialist 27 March 2004 |
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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
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
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
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
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