NEARLY a quarter of a million civil servants throughout Britain took strike action on 8th and 9th March 2010 in protest at plans to drastically cut their redundancy compensation package — at a time when huge public spending cuts are likely in the near future.
The planned changes would make it easier and cheaper for whatever government is elected after the general election to cut vast swathes of civil service jobs.
It is estimated that the cuts to the compensation scheme would save the Government £500 million over the next three years.
These cuts would throw possibly thousands of civil servants on to the growing dole queues with very little compensation to cushion them against a sudden — and possibly long-term — cut in their incomes.
Such job cuts would also throw heavily increased workloads on those who did keep their jobs and reduce services to the public.
The strike action, organised by the union PCS, was strongly supported in all sections of the civil service, bringing picket lines to courts, job centres, museums, police stations — including New Scotland Yard — the Houses of Parliament and many Whitehall ministries.
It affected ports and airports, with Revenue and Customs officers and immigration staff taking part. Courts were closed and trials rescheduled; over 20,000 driving tests were postponed.
Striking civil servants and their supporters attended over 20 rallies in towns and cities throughout Britain.
On Tuesday a PCS battle bus toured the streets of London, visiting picket lines in the capital including: The Royal Courts of Justice, The Houses of Parliament, the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard, The Victoria and Albert Museum, British Library and Government departments in Whitehall.
And there was a march in central London from the Imperial War Museum to a rally in Westminster’s Central Hall.
Speakers at the rally included Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, Janice Godrich PCS president (chair), Bob Crow RMT general secretary, Jeremy Dear NUJ general secretary, John McDonnell MP, Kevin Courtney NUT deputy general secretary.
Mark Serwotka said: “The Government need to stop burying its head in the sand and wake up to the scale of anger that has been generated by their plans to cut jobs on the cheap.
“Loyal civil and public servants won’t stand by and allow the government to cut jobs on the cheap. Those on strike today deliver services that touch our everyday lives from the cradle to the grave.
“Under these imposed changes, they face losing up to a third of their entitlements and tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of their job. The Government is tearing up the contracts of low paid civil and public servants whilst it claims it can do nothing about bankers’ bonuses because of contractual obligations.
“The Government needs to recognise that slashing entitlements and cutting jobs on the cheap will damage public services and reach an agreement that protects existing members’ entitlements.”
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “NUJ members will know that in many of our own disputes we have had invaluable help from PCS. I know our members will want to reciprocate that support now.”
John McDonnell MP, who chairs the Labour Representation Committee, said: “The Government has severely under-estimated the strength of feeling among civil servants and the anger that’s built up and led to this dispute.
“It is critical now that the Government returns to the negotiation table to avoid further disruption. This dispute could be resolved easily with flexibility from the Government.”
An overtime ban across the civil began on Wednesday with the possibility of further walkouts looming in the coming weeks should the Government refuse to reach an agreement that protects civil servants’ entitlements.
In a separate dispute, around 1,000 PCS members working for Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services will be also striking on 8th and 9th March in a row over pay freezes and job losses.
Those taking part in the HP stoppage work mainly on IT contracts for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and General Motors Services.
The four HP sites involved were Newcastle, Washington, Preston and the Fylde Coast.