Friday, 31 October 2008

PCS calls on Government to avoid strike action

THE NATIONAL Executive Committee of the Public and Commercial Services Union , last week agreed the first stages of a programme of national industrial action across civil and public services over the Government’s public sector pay cap. The union urged the Government to come to the negotiating table to avoid damaging industrial action and review its public sector pay cap of two per cent, which is resulting in pay cuts and pay freezes for some of the lowest paid in the public sector.
If there is no movement from the government then industrial action will begin with a one-day civil service and public sector strike throughout Britain on 10th November, hitting passports, Jobcentres, Tax Credits, immigration and customs, as well as driving licences, coastguards, driving tests and museums.
“There is a three-week opportunity to avoid damaging industrial action, where the government can pay heed to the Bank of England’s warning on the economic consequences that the squeeze on wages is having.” Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary said.
The one-day strike, which will be followed by an overtime ban throughout the civil service, comes as civil and public servants across the country face mounting pressure on their finances as a result of the Government’s public sector pay cap.
With one in five in the civil service earning less than £15,000 and thousands earning just above the minimum wage, the Government’s policy of capping public sector pay has hit some of the lowest paid in the public sector the hardest.
In October, at least six Government departments and agencies, including coastguards and the Office for National Statistics, had to give emergency pay rises to lift earnings above the new national minimum wage rate.
The NEC also agreed outline plans for sustained and targeted industrial action that would stretch into next year in the different sectors of the civil service.
The NEC will meet after the one-day strike on 10th November to discuss dates for the sector by sector action, should there be no breakthrough with the Government.
Unlike other parts of the public sector, civil servants are doubly disadvantaged because “progression” (moving from the minimum to the maximum of the pay range) is included in the government’s pay cap along with cost of living increases. Hence there is less money available to fund basic pay awards.
This year has already seen pay strikes hit jobcentres, passports, immigration and coastguards across Britain, as well as strikes in the Scottish courts service, museums and sportscotland.
PCS members have also co-ordinated their industrial action over pay with other public sector unions, including NUT, UCU and Unison.
Commenting, Mark Serwotka said: “The everyday things we take for granted from passports and getting back into work, through to tax credits, coastguards and securing our borders are delivered by hardworking civil and public servants.
“Giving these people pay rises that take their wages to just 13 or 25 pence above the national minimum wage is unsustainable when you face double digit rises in food, fuel and housing costs.
“There is a three week opportunity to avoid damaging industrial action, where the government can pay heed to the Bank of England’s warning on the economic consequences that the squeeze on wages is having.
“The Government has the opportunity to recognise that its own workforce is doubly disadvantaged by a punitive pay system, that sees coastguards receiving special pay rises because the minimum wage has gone up and nearly half of jobcentre workers receiving no pay rise whatsoever this year.”