Monday, 1 April 2013

PCS: Half-day strike turns into half day farce

The PCS civil service union is planning a half-day strike on Friday April 5th starting at 1:30 as part of it's on-going action. All well and good you'd think. Except a few problems have started to arise.

Last week it was "discovered" that the strike would have no effect what-so-ever in the second largest section of the union the HMRC. The reason being that the computer that members would need to do their jobs would be "down" that day. After some "debate" the PCS National Executive Committee has changed the date that HMRC staff go on strike to the following Monday.

There's still a problem with that though. For starters there remains the possibility that the computer systems may still not be up and running, nobody seems sure and certainly Management won't be in a hurry. The real dilemma lies in the simple fact that the strike will be divided. 

The rest of the unions members will still be striking on Friday, which will automatically lower the turnout (which has in any case been well under half of the PCS membership. The Monday strike will be likely be ignored as the numbers involved will be a comparative few.

Why the Socialist Party/Serwotka leadership didn't just postpone the strike until everyone could do it together? What they propose to do does not make any logical sense, especially as they know support for the dispute is much lower than they had hope for.

In other, related news problems have arisen in the Home Office which may have a further effect on the dispute. Management have taken a bizarre "turn" on who gets paid or not on a half day strike:

Staff in Home Office HQ (including Border Force) and all of the UK Border Agency (with the exception of the public enquiry offices) will not receive any pay for their shift/day if they take industrial action. This includes staff who take industrial action even though they work part of their shift.

Staff working in these areas will not be required to report to work if they intend to participate in the strike on 5 April and a full day’s pay will be deducted. Any further short strikes, of less than a full day’s duration, will also be managed in this manner in these areas.

Because of the different nature of their customer service offering, the Identity & Passport Office and the UK Border Agency public enquiry offices will accept partial performance on 5 April and each member of staff who participates in the strike action will have half a day’s pay deducted. If staff participate in the strike action, but work for more than half a day, they will still only be paid for half a day, as PCS has defined the duration of this strike as half a day.

The PCS describe this as a"lock-out" and are taking Legal Advice as well as engaging in political lobbying over this. How members will react in the circumstances is not clear at the time of writing. It certainly won't help with having the "national" strike divided over two days separated by a weekend.

A further problem has arisen for the Socialist Party strategy in PCS which is geared not to winning members demands, but towards building a General Strike for their own sectarian aggrandisement. The National Union of Teachers has rejected joining the wider strike Mark Serwotka & the SP/SWP have been pushing for June 26th. 

Socialist Worker claimed this was by a "narrow margin", but in fact was defeated by nearly two-thirds of delegates who wanted to maintain a level of unity with their moderate sister union the NASUWT. Their strategy of a rolling series of strikes, leading to a national one in the Autumn will leave PCS out on a limb. Again.

PCS members have been led into a industrial cul-de-sac by the far-left. Mark Serwotka is on record as saying that PCS cannot go it alone and win and yet that is what the sectarians of the Socialist Party/SWP have pushed us into. With the one day strike divided members need to scrutinise the decision of the PCS leadership over the next few days.

At the moment the dispute has become a farce. This is the fault of the current leadership who put their political interests before those of the members.

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