On 2nd  February 2010 the revised terms and conditions of the Civil Service Compensation Scheme were published.  You will note the spin in the papers and on the civil service website that 5 unions agreed to the new terms:

These reflect the outcome of further discussions with the unions and have been agreed between the Cabinet Office and the FDA, Prospect, the GMB, Unite and the Prison Officers’ Association

Those 5 unions represent only a small proportion of civil servants, the vast majority being represented by the PCS union who were still negotiating the proposed terms.  Concessions had been made by both the cabinet office and PCS when the cabinet office ceased negotiations and and imposed the new set of rules.

PCS decided the only option was to ballot the members to see if they were willing to take strike action and/or action short of a strike to defend their terms and conditions.  The results of the ballot were published today:

Up to 270,000 civil and public servants from across the UK are set to launch a month of industrial action with a 48 hour strike on 8 and 9 March in a dispute over unilateral changes to redundancy terms,PCS announced today.

Strike action could hit civil and public services every week of next month from Monday 8 March following strong support in a ballot which saw 63.4% of those voting backing strike action and 81.4% supporting an overtime ban.

The strikes, which will involve Jobcentre staff, tax workers, coastguards, border agency officials, courts staff and driving test examiners, are a result of the government and Cabinet Office making unilateral changes to the civil service compensation scheme.

The changes will see staff robbed of up to a third of their entitlements and see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job. The government is looking to save £500 million through the changes, based on the number of jobs it has axed over the last three years.

With all the main political parties planning deep spending cuts, the union fears that the cuts to the scheme will lead to tens of thousands of job losses on the cheap.

The union’s national executive committee will be meeting next week on 2, 3 and 4 March to finalise further strike dates, which could include national walkouts and targeted strike action.

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “These cuts, which will see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job, are more about crude politicking than making savings.

“We have suggested ways in which the government can make these savings whilst protecting the rights of existing members, yet it seems intent on penalising the people who keep this country running.

“With civil and public service jobs increasingly at risk, this is a cynical attempt to cut jobs on the cheap which will ultimately damage the services we all rely on. The government needs to recognise the depth of anger which has been demonstrated by this ballot result and find the political will to negotiate a settlement that avoids a sustained campaign of industrial action.”

Some final thoughts from me:-

The other unions didn’t ask their members what they thought about the new terms, they just decided on behalf of the membership. I know that some of the members of those unions are angry about that and would not have agreed to the terms if their union had asked them.

The PCS union is not affiliated to any political party.

Strike action is always a last resort which comes about because meaningful communications have broken down!

My original post on the proposals can be viewed here.

32 Comments CherryPie on Feb 25th 2010

32 Responses to “PCS Members Vote for Strike Action”

  1. Mike says:

    “The PCS union is not affiliated to any political party”

    Thats a joke, most of its leadership are members of the tiny ultra Marxist Socialist Party, a tiny group who seem to be more keen on a Tory government.

    I am a PCS member but will not be a part of this irresponsible action which will simply play into the hands of the Tories. If you think there are problems now wait until Cameron and co are in power. Hey but maybe the leadership of PCS really want a Tory government as shouting from the barricades is of course easier and more in tune with what they want.

    • CherryPie says:

      When I say not affiliated I meant PCS do not fund any political party. I can’t think of a single PCS leader that would prefer it if the Tories were in power.

      I always thought that the point of being in a Union was to look after the membership and a ballot takes place, all members should honour the democratic decision. After all it is the members that vote and produce the ballot outcome.

  2. Here’s hoping our strike has some effect

  3. Calumcarr says:

    Good luck, CP. You too, Jams.

  4. Ginnie says:

    As we all know, COMMUNICATION is the key to any marriage! I wish you all the best.

  5. Denise says:

    Good Luck! Union business is essential for a democratic way of life.

  6. jameshigham says:

    I do sympathise but you see what we’re up against. The problems the PCS faces, particularly in regard to borders, is directly linked to European integration and yet no one will heed the root cause – only what they see before them. There is needed a concerted effort from everyone, PCS, everyone, working together and not at odds, to rid these islands of the plague from the continent which has so permeated work practices and regulations that we can’t even move any more.

    • CherryPie says:

      Yes James I agree with you. I am sure you can see now from working on the Albion Alliance how difficult it is, firstly to get people to see what is plainly before their eyes even when they are told in black and white. Secondly I am sure you will also have seen that even if people do see it they have that apathy for whatever reason and so just sit back and wait.

      Even the other unions keeled over on this one (as always) without even asking their members what they thought. Members of one of the other unions work with me and they are very angry that they weren’t consulted because they wouldn’t have agreed to the terms.

      As you say we do so need everyone to work together but people don’t seem to be very good at that.

  7. I would question prison officers being civil servants. In any event, like the police it is illegal for prison officers to go on strike.

    However, if they do take strike action…

    The Association of Prisoners is encouraging prisoners to take action in relation to prisoners being denied the vote…

    Jack Straw would appear to be trapped between a rock and a hard place.

    • CherryPie says:

      It is not the Prison Officers that are covered by PCS. From the PCS website:

      There are currently over 5,500 members in a range of jobs across NOMS (HM Prison Service), including managers, governors, instructional officers, administration and support workers, and colleagues working on the rehabilitation of offenders through employment and training.

      RE: Jack Straw, he does seem to be rather up against it at the moment.

  8. Sean Jeating says:

    Hm, I don’t feel able to comment on the situation in England.

    From what I observe in Germany: Public ’servants’ recently asked for five percent more.
    Now what are five per cents more for a nurse and a dustman [right term?]. Let’s say they have (and many have not!) 2,000 Euro per month.
    Five percent more: 100 Euro (brutto).
    Government, communes throwing their hands up in horror: ‘This would mean four billions more for our households.

    At the same time banks are ‘bailed out’, ‘bad banks’ are founded at hundreds of billions.
    Today the Bundestag decided to send about 850 more soldiers and to increase Germany’s ‘investments into a blooming future of Afghanistan from 260 to 430 million Euro.
    Question: Where’s the relation?

    As for GREAT Britain, the eu and those who prefer ALBION’s autarchy: I suggest to fill up the tunnel, to call back ‘our boys’ from wherever they are bringing ‘enduring freedom’, to expel all human snakes and burn all who don’t believe in what perhaps (?) does not exist. :)

    Interesting post, CherryPie. And: Good luck.

    • CherryPie says:

      I can only reply by examples from my experience.

      Two years ago my department was offered a 2.5% pay rise which we considered acceptable in the current climate. But there were additional considerations which meant contracting the pay bands. Which meant less steps from the bottom to the top of the pay scale in each grade. The offer meant that a lot of middle managers received a 15% pay rise whilst the lowest paid were above their pay scale max already so effectively over the next three years they had a reduction in pay…

      The current dispute is about taking away contractual terms and conditions. Many Civil Servants know that they could have received higher wages in the private sector but chose to serve the public and their terms and conditions allowed them a modest pension which meant they were able to at least cover their own expenses in retirement.

      PCS were quite happy for the terms to be changed for new recruits but view it as unethical and unlawful to change existing terms and conditions unilaterally without agreement. They negotiated with ideas that would make savings to enable the current members to keep their terms and conditions. The government stopped talking in the middle of negotiations.

      As to the EU, I love Europe and the different cultures of all it’s members. I would hate anything that would suppress such individuality :-)

  9. I, too, hope that the action has some positive result for the workers and that it is all quickly solved.

  10. Claudia says:

    My son works for the Ontario Provincial Government. Whenever the workers have been on strike to obtain a reasonable, legitimate raise, after 8 (or more) weeks on strike, the Unions usually settle for less that what had been asked. And it takes over a year to recuperate the salary lost during the strike. My son says it’s not worth it. And the danger is that the Government (who cannot lay off long-term employees) is allowed to close down any department, and hire a free-lance agency to do the work. Then, regular employees are out of a job. So much for Union Power!!!!

    It’s a tough life. Unless you’re born with a silver spoon…

    • CherryPie says:

      It is very difficult in these situations. I am just happy that the people who negotiate on my behalf are very democratic and seek for the best compromise. When they are making headway the government close down negotiations. Which I take to be testing the resolve of the people challenging them!

  11. Claudia says:

    Goodluck to all of you!:)

  12. Sean Jeating says:

    Ah, CherryPie, it’s when it’s getting interesting that I regret my suboptimal English.
    What I do wonder is, if a proportional increase (on the long row) is fair. Earning 5,000 or 1,500 per month, getting two, five or ten percent more makes (slightly) a difference, hm?

    Well, and as for your last sentence: perfect political rhetoric. Chapeau. :)

    • CherryPie says:

      Ahh! now Sean I do have a problem with the proportional increase. It leads to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. A big difference!

      My last sentence wasn’t meant to be political in any way. Mmm! makes me wonder if I am a little bit naive…

  13. Sean Jeating says:

    Both we do see the same problem, CherryPie. The proportional increase increases the problem.

    To praise the different cultures in Europe is a favourite phrase of those who’d after the comma add a BUT.
    I wonder whether all (!) members of the ‘Albion Alliance’ would accept a “Yes” in a referendum; a ‘Yes’ for Europe, that is.
    Democracy is not easy a ‘thing’. :)
    Well, and as for my suggestion to fill up the tunnel, to call back ‘our boys’ from wherever they are bringing ‘enduring freedom’, to expel all human snakes and burn all who don’t believe in what perhaps (?) does not exist: Plain polemic … or perhaps not? :)
    Anyway, my best friend (who indulges me for meanwhile almost fourty years) is … an Englishman. :)

    • CherryPie says:

      Democracy is indeed a complicated thing. You can see from my first commenter that he doesn’t think that he should abide by a democratic decision. I am quite sure a few other members won’t either. As for the AA members I think maybe we would have to ask them ;-)

  14. jameshigham says:

    People are pulling in different directions, Cherie but worse, failing to recognize realities and the UK employment realities are deeply connected with Europe which now means the EU. Are your members all calling for a referendum to get out? Because if not, then the troubles will get worse, not better.

  15. Chrissy says:

    I understand Mikes comment and in a way hate the fact that it has come to taking strike action. I know that I will have to boycot the news from all newspapers for a while because they will spin it into something that is isn’t. No-one has any sympathy with civil servants, they see them as a cost the country cannot afford so it would not be in any reporters interest to write the truth.
    However, once again the government are simply changing terms and conditions because they can. Exactly the same as they tried to do with the pensions. I will be striking for the first time in 30 years, I don’t like it either. But, morally I feel the need to make a stand….

    • CherryPie says:

      I always hate it when it gets as far as strike action but as you say on this occasion the government are changing the terms just because they can. People who don’t normally strike have said they will this time.

      I fear that if they get away with this one they will come back a try again with the pensions so it is important for us to be successful.

  16. I’m not relishing the strike but I believe that we have no option. As for the political persuasion of the leadership, Serwotka has been an excellent General Secretary

    • CherryPie says:

      I agree, I don’t think we have an option either we have to take this stand.

      Yes he is an excellent General Secretary Mark has vision, is open and honest and a good leader which is all anyone could ask for.