PCS Branch briefing: 11 March
- Support the national overtime ban
- National strike action now set for budget day – 24 March
The action on 8 and 9 March was a great success, solidly supported by members across the UK, and with extensive media coverage.
Reports are available on this website. A flyer for distribution to members can be downloaded or copies obtained from your regional office. Over 200,000 PCS members were on strike.
We now need to keep the pressure up on the employer to come to a negotiated settlement.
Success on 8 and 9 March
The action on 8 and 9 March included:
- Crown and county court sittings cancelled across England and Wales
- Jobcentres offering little or no service to the public
- Solid support among Met Police civilian staff working, including 999 operators, community support officers and picket lines at Houses of Parliament for the first time in a generation
- An estimated 4,000 driving tests cancelled
- Severe problems calling tax and benefit call centres with some switching to recorded announcements
- Glasgow passport office closed, appointments cancelled in London and 80,000 passports delayed
- Severe disruption at Gatwick as 70% of UK Border Agency staff took part in the strike action, and delays at other ports of entry.
Well attended strike rallies were held across the UK. The London march and rally was supported by several hundred members and won the support of a number of general secretaries of other unions and the TUC.
Media coverage in the run up and of the strike itself was unprecedented across TV, radio, web and print.
It was covered on news bulletins throughout the day on all national TV and radio stations and appearances by the general secretary included the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Breakfast TV, GMTV, Sky News and Channel 4 News.
UK-wide broadcast coverage was supported by excellent coverage over the two days in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions, where the media visited picket lines and interviewed reps and full time officials.
The message has gone out loud and clear that we will not accept changes to the CSCS that would mean:
- Everyone’s job under greater threat than ever before
- For many people with longer service, the loss of a third of their entitlements, possibly tens of thousands of pounds
- People currently over 50 losing access to an enhanced pension other than on compulsory redundancy
- People reaching 50 in the future losing access to an enhanced pension
- Voluntary severance packages becoming less generous and will be at employer discretion
- People with reserved rights (pre-1987) losing more than half of their entitlements
- People facing privatisation transferring with far less protection – therefore making privatisation more likely.
Communications with the employer
We have written again to Tessa Jowell, minister for the civil service, stating that we should meet to discuss a negotiated settlement.
The government has attempted to downplay the action and disgracefully has tried to reject the prospect of an agreement to settle this dispute.
But we know that political pressure on the government has grown, with 162 MPs signing an early day motion. More action can have an effect.
National overtime ban
A national overtime ban is now in effect. The ban will run until 6 April in the first instance. It will be kept under review by the national executive committee.
Guidance for reps and members’ leaflets on the overtime ban have been distributed to branches. These, and all other materials, are available on the PCS website.
If we are to defend members’ entitlements under the CSCS, and defend our jobs, it is very important we do not allow our strike action to be undermined by the employer getting people to work overtime to clear backlogs created by the action.
Branches should now discuss implementation of the ban, seeking advice from Group offices where necessary.
Further action: all out on Budget Day – 24 March
We have had successful action. We now need to keep the momentum up. The national executive has decided to call a national strike on Wednesday 24 March, Budget Day.
Action on the day Alistair Darling presents his Budget to the House of Commons will have a tremendous impact.
We will be asking regions to organise public protests on the 24th to complement national activities, to raise the profile of the dispute with the media and general public.
This is the key period to take such action, in the run up to a general election and before 1 April when the amendments to the scheme come into effect.
The union has made suggestions to the employer that would enable the government to make the savings it says it must make at the same time as protecting existing members’ entitlements. An agreement is within reach but we must step up the pressure.
Regional meetings of reps are being organised to discuss building the action. These meetings will take place over the next few days. More details will be issued by your regional office.
A members’ mailing will be issued to ballot addresses shortly. Meetings with members and other face to face contact using the material on the website should be carried out as a priority to build support for the strike.
We continue to pursue legal action. The government is attempting to delay this in the courts. Industrial action will help to keep the pressure on.
Lobbying and campaigning action on 19 March
John McDonnell MP, chair of the PCS parliamentary group, has urged us to continue to lobby MPs and ask them to contact the minister to urge her to come to an agreement and avoid more damaging action.
The national executive has agreed that Friday 19 March will be a day of local campaigning activities and lobbying of MPs to raise awareness among the public of our case and of the action planned for Budget Day.
Branches are urged to plan lobbies of MPs surgeries on 19 March where they take place, and to organise leafleting of the public, and to encourage members to write again to their MPs.
Nationally, lobbying activities of ministers and other campaigning action will also take place.
Hardship funds exist for members in financial difficulties. Please contact your group office for details.
Branches must now:
- Discuss implementation of the national overtime ban
- Attend reps’ regional briefings: further details will be issued soon
- Use the campaign materials and talk to members about the strike action on 24 March, holding meetings wherever possible
- Plan to lobby local MPs on 19 March wherever surgeries are taking place, organise public leafleting sessions, and urge members to write again to MPs. Details are on the PCS website.
NEC members and senior full time officers are available to speak at meetings: contact the president’s office on firstname.lastname@example.org for NEC members’ availability; and contact the general secretary’s office email@example.com in the first instance for the availability of SFTOs.
Thank you for your hard work so far. Industrial action is only called as a last resort and we know that it is not easy for members.
But this is the most important dispute we have had for many years. Now is the key time to build more pressure on the government to reach an agreement to settle this dispute.