Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Budget news buries PCS strike (UPDATED)

By the time I switched on the news this morning (around 11am) the PCS strike was no longer a lead item on Sky News. The only evidence of it came from a lone placard waver being Vince Cable when he was interviewed at one point and a redneck Tory backbencher at Prime Ministers question time who remarked that "the country had not ground to halt" as a result of the strike.

David Cameron's sinister reply was that they were looking at the need for "efficiencies" or words to that effect. At the time of writing there is no news of the overall turnout provided by either PCS or Management. That argument will begin later no doubt.

Meanwhile the Socialist Worker newspaper has published an absurd on-line claim that 250,000 PCS members are on strike today. This kind of overt politically motivated distortion does not help anyone, particularly the members involved themselves.

The Chancellor has already announced two things of concern for civil servants by (a) implementing a further cut of 1% to all Government departments and (b) has extended the current "pay restrictions" for a further year. The only plank of the PCS strike that had any relevance to members was fighting this. PCS has put in for a 5% pay rise, nice if we could get it, but clearly isn't going to happen.

There is further bad news for the Socialist Party led PCS. About 60% of workers in the NHS have been given a 1% pay rise which although condemned by both Unison & Unite unions have not committed themselves to any action over this. In fact Unite has announced that it will campaign for a higher pay rise in 2014.

Teaching unions have  limited plans for rolling action across their sector but these are not expected until later in the year. This has prompted the usual response from the "comrades" who always manage to find someone who is "angry" about this. However having seen the people who were quoted in  the Socialist Worker report on today's PCS strike, they are all err.. Socialist Worker Party or Socialist Party members like Anna Owens, Derek Thompson and Fidel McLean.

It's good to yourselves.

Prospects of widening the dispute are now negligible.

UPDATE: The Government has now published its' figures on the number of staff out on strike today. Speaking to the BBC, Francis Maude claims that around 95,000 took part in industrial action, which represents a little over one third of PCS membership.

As of 5pm this afternoon PCS had not actually published any claims on turnout, though reports from individual offices have made high claims. The fact is that as usual turnouts will vary from office to office and in different parts of the country.

As expected the Socialist Party have made use of the strike to promote their cause. In Bristol John McInally (PCS Vice President) and Tom Baldwin, both members of the Socialist Party called for workers to have their own party against austerity by which they mean themselves of course.

Not to be left out Lee Vernon another member of the Socialist Party made the inevitable call for a General Strike at the rally outside Parliament. Apparently Candy Udwin of the now infamous Socialist Workers Party's Disciplinary Committee also made an appearance telling us to build soviets "networks of resistance". Surprised anyone left in the the SWP has the nerve to show themselves to be honest.

Meanwhile a further half-day strike has already been set for Friday April 5th starting at 1pm. Disturbingly the PCS DWP group sent round a note to PCS Reps saying they had written to Management asking for them to outline the effect this will have on members. Surely they should have investigated any problems before calling the strike. Go figure.


  1. Hi Howie, I can't figure out how to send you a message!

    The blogger Loony Lefty here. I'm wondering if you could possibly post the following on your blog?

    Many thanks,


    Hello everyone, we're active in the trade union movement or broader Left and have experienced discrimination within the movement on grounds of our mental health or disability. If one in four people has a mental health condition at some point in their lives, then it must follow that a lot of folk in the workplace have MH conditions. Trade unions are supposed to represent their workforces. That should include people like us. But our own experience would seem to indicate that there exists a great deal of ignorance, prejudice and discriminatory stereotypes of mental ill-health within the trade union movement, and within the Left generally - and particularly among elements of the Trotskyist Left (the Socialist Party and SWP seem to have a particularly terrible approach to disability equality, as can be seen in the links in the blogpost).

    We'd be interested to learn whether other people have experienced the kind of discrimination outlined here:

    The trade unions are our unions too. We need to make them a safe place for folk with mental health conditions, and disabled people generally. If you've had similar experiences, or are a disabled person active in the trade union movement or the wider Left, please consider joining this closed Facebook group, intended to be a discussion and support forum to share experiences:

    1. Hi LL,

      Your points are up for people to read.

      I'd be interested to know if Mark Serwotka ever replied to your letter.