Wednesday, 10 March 2010
The 48-hour stoppage by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has now drawn to a close. An estimated 200,000 PCS union members withdrew their labour during the strike and widespread disruption was caused to public services everywhere. Plenary at the Welsh Assembly was postponed and Plaid Cymru and Labour AMs refused to cross the picket line. The Tories showed their true colours by criticising the halting of Assembly business. Should we expect any different from a party that always has and always will represent the interests of the ruling elite? As chair of the all-party PCS group, I was more than happy to show my solidarity with members of the union and their quest to defend their redundancy rights during the two-day strike by joining picket lines and speaking at a rally in Cardiff.
PCS Members have not taken the decision to strike lightly. Losing two days of pay is not an easy sacrifice to make, but they have certainly demonstrated that they are serious about protecting their contractual rights. More industrial action is planned for next week and an overtime ban is also in place. This of course will all be called off if the powers-that-be in Westminster do the sensible thing and get round the negotiating table with ACAS and the union.
It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce where the UK Labour Government is going with this downgrading of the civil service compensation scheme. They seem hell bent on doing the Tories’ dirty work for them by making it cheap to sack civil servants ahead of the anticipated post-General Election cull of public services. As an example of a party losing touch with its core support, this is up there with the abolition of the lower rate of income tax.
I fear this dispute is just the start of brutal cuts to our public services. Apart from the misery huge job losses will bring to thousands of loyal civil servants, it also has some incredibly bright economists scratching their heads at the logic of reducing public spending in a recession. Making low-paid workers and users of public services pay the price for the mistakes of the banking elite in causing the UK’s huge spending deficit, is simply wrong. The PCSU are right to stand against that principle.
I hope that union members stay strong and stick together for the duration of this dispute. That's the only way they'll stop their contracts being ripped up by their employer, and the best way to stop the planned vicious cuts to our public services.