Mood hardens in PCS dispute
PCS Assistant Secretary, Norfolk & Suffolk DWP
Tens of thousands of PCS members in the Department
for Work and Pensions took part in a two day strike on 29 and 30 July.
This was our third strike in a long running and increasingly bitter
dispute over pay and a discriminatory performance system. News of
massive job cuts in the civil service has only fuelled workers' anger.
Nationally, the union has reported increased
support for the action and this was certainly the case in my office,
with significantly more members responding to the call. Recruitment is
also at record levels - I was handed nine membership applications in
the three days before the strike alone, and across the DWP 14,000 new
members have signed up.
One indication of the state of relations in the DWP
was the result of a membership ballot on the DWP Executive Team. 97.7
percent recorded a verdict of no confidence in the eight people who
between them are paid over £1 million. Indeed, the only surprise was
that 2.3 percent of members do have any confidence in senior
In addition to the strike action, the PCS organised
a lobby of Parliament on 14 July and is pursuing High Court action
against management's new PDS system which has seen thousands of staff
fuming at the arbitrary quotas that are used to measure performance
and award bonus payments.
In a worrying development, East London branch
secretary Charlie McDonald has been accused by management of serious
misconduct during the strike, a charge which can lead to dismissal.
The PCS has issued a statement calling this a "serious and conscious
attack on a senior union official" and has agreed in principle to
ballot members in East London for action. It is vital that the union
takes all possible steps to defend activists from this sort of
What of the future of the dispute? The PCS
leadership has indicated that further strikes are possible if the DWP
does not address our concerns in the current pay talks and there is
now the parallel issue of the jobs massacre which could see compulsory
redundancies and will blow a hole in the provision of public services.
This is a battle that the PCS will fight hard but
should not be left to fight alone. All unions representing public
sector workers need to coordinate a response to defend jobs, pensions
and services, because if the Government breaks the PCS then you can be
sure it will already be lining up its next victim.