The Socialist 6 November 2004 |
Join the Socialist
For A One-Day Public-Sector Strike
ON 5 November, 300,000 civil servants, members of the Public and Commercial
Services union (PCS), are striking in defence of their jobs and working
This will be the first time for many years that so many civil servants have
come together to act as one fighting organisation.
The New Labour government, like the Tories before them, have made it
abundantly clear that privatisation is what they are about in the public
sector. The civil servants are in the front line of the fight to save what is
left of the public sector. Therefore, their fight is the cause of the whole
The PCS, led for the first time for many years by a fighting democratic
leadership, is intent on defence of its members' interests. New Labour
ministers and the top civil service managers know that they have to defeat the
PCS before they can go on to attack the rest of the public sector.
When Gordon Brown announced that 104,000 civil servants would lose their
jobs he hoped, unbelievably, that this would be a vote winner. It is - amongst
the fat cats of big business and the rest of the parasites who live off the
backs of the working class!
But New Labour did not take into account the willingness of hundreds of
thousands of, in the main, low-paid workers to fight back. The strike of 5
November is a massive warning shot across the bows of New Labour - that they
will not get away with attacking civil servants with impunity.
The only thing that this government recognises is action, and the strike
delivers this in the best possible way. But all those participating also know
that, by itself, the strike will not be enough to make the government do a
U-turn or even to make sufficient changes to their plans over the negotiating
After 5 November the question will increasingly be posed as to how the
dispute can be widened to other public sector workers and the trade union
movement as a whole.
The PCS under its present leadership, including members of the Socialist
Party, have played a tremendous role. That is because they have the confidence
that workers are willing to struggle if they think that they will not be let
down by their leaders. For too long union leaders have bent the knee to the
At the TUC in September, the other union leaders were falling over
themselves to give verbal support to the PCS. Now the union can rightly demand
that verbal support be turned into action.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the biggest public sector union UNISON,
has raised the possibility of industrial action over the threats to worsen the
pension rights of his members in local government. The teachers' leaders have
hinted at the same.
The PCS will be contacting other public sector unions through the TUC or,
if they drag their feet for too long, directly. They will ask for a conference
of trade union executives to discuss common action over pensions, job losses
and other issues that are common across the public sector.
That conference should agree a programme of joint action in defence of the
public sector. This should include naming the date for a national day of
action, including industrial action, against the government's attacks on the
public sector. The Socialist Party believes that there will be massive support
amongst millions of ordinary workers for a programme of action along these
Civil service workers have demonstrated in action that they are willing to
fight if given a lead. Now it is the time for all public sector workers to be
united in action.
The 5 November strike can be an historic turning point in the struggle to
reverse the pro-market, pro-capitalist policies of this rotten government.