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Today, delegates at the PCS annual conference in Brighton overwhelmingly backed an industrial action ballot of our members across the Civil Service and other related organisations.
This means 150,000 workers could walk out this summer, if the government doesn’t change its tune on pay.
The significance of this potential strike action cannot be underestimated.
And I want to make something crystal clear from the outset — we are going into talks with the government demanding a fully funded 5 per cent rise. This ballot shows we are serious and if talks fail, we will strike.
Our members feel like they are being singled out for special punishment particularly when you consider other parts of the public sector have breached the 1 per cent pay cap.
Scottish government workers have been offered up to 4 per cent. So why not our members in the UK Civil Service?
This government has perhaps once again underestimated the resolve of our members. Remember when they tried to destroy the union through scrapping check-off? That failed miserably and they face the same fate on the issue of pay.
Our members deserve 5 per cent from new money which we know the government can find if there is the political will.
The recent scandal of Windrush revealed a government that operates racist and oppressive policies and then, when exposed for its appalling treatment of people who have lived and paid taxes in this country for decades, attempts to deflect the blame on to its own staff in the Home Office.
PCS members in the Home Office and elsewhere in the Civil Service do difficult jobs in circumstances that are not of their choosing.
Our union campaigns for an alternative to policies of austerity, discrimination and poverty, which we believe a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government can deliver.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell who addressed our conference yesterday has spoken of “common sense socialism,” an economy that rewards working people for their efforts and curbs excesses at the top.
Policies such as clamping down on big business tax avoidance and renationalising the railways and utilities are all overwhelmingly popular with the pubic.
This is why, in order to stifle any potential resistance to their policies, the government is determined to silence trade unionists and why it introduced new ballot thresholds for industrial action.
Once again however, the Tories have underestimated workers, as we have seen from the recent huge mandate from CWU members and a successful two weeks’ action by lecturers in the UCU.
In sectors that have historically been very difficult to organise in such as the fast food industry, we see workers from McDonald’s bravely defying a ruthless employer to fight for a living wage of £10 an hour.
Strike action is always a last resort but when trade unionists are pushed into a corner and have no choice, we must step up to the plate, confidently.
Our members have put up with 11 years of pay restraint, job cuts and poor management. Their patience has run out and they have decided to go on the front foot.
I am proud to lead them into this fight which will be difficult but I am confident that with the combined strength of our industrial muscle and collective resolve, we will get the pay deal our members deserve.
Mark Serwotka is general secretary of PCS.
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