Thursday, 3 July 2008

Scots civil servants ready to strike

THOUSANDS of civil servants in Scotland are gearing up for a strike over pay this summer in a move that will severely disrupt services to the public.
PCS is balloting members and advising them to vote for strike action later this year in protest at a two per cent cap on pay rises both north and south of the border for each of the next three years – at a time when inflation is escalating sharply.
Scottish ministers have said they might increase this offers in some cases; the union wants six per cent for all workers. Hundreds of thousands of civil servants are already on very low pay and they will not be able to manage without significant pay rises to meet the rises in food and fuel prices.
If the action goes ahead Scotland’s courts will come to a halt as Crown Office staff join the industrial action. Property transactions, art galleries and payments to farmers are also likely to be affected.
Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has written to civil servants in an effort to head off the strike.
But union negotiators are expected to call for a two-day strike in mid-July, followed by further stoppages if the deadlock is not broken.
Social workers, housing benefit staff, teaching assistants, dinner ladies, cooks, cleaners, architects, traffic wardens and refuse collectors will join the strike in the biggest show of industrial unrest for years.
Jobcentre and benefit office workers and other civil servants could take industrial action later in the year in separate rows.
The first ballot will include 4,000 civil servants in the Scottish Government civil service and in the Registers of Scotland, which handles registration of property transactions.
Lynn Henderson, political officer for the PCS in Scotland, said: “We are seeking a fair increase for our members, who see prices going up much quicker than the two per cent in this offer.”
She added that the civil servants would attempt to co-ordinate their strike action with that of other public bodies, such as councils.
Later in the summer, officials at the Crown Office and Prosecutor Fiscal Service, which handles the prosecution of crime, and the Scottish Courts Service, which administers and staffs courtrooms, will ballot on strike action. They are also being urged to come out on strike.
Unison is also balloting council workers in Scotland for strikes over pay in a separate dispute after being offered a three-year deal worth 2.5 per cent a year.