The PCS and a number of other unions will be on strike on 10 May. This is welcome news following the gross misjudgement of not taking action on 28 March but it still leaves the question of what next; a question that has not been answered despite being nearly a year into the dispute.
Following the debacle of the 28 March, in its explanation as to why it did not take action the PCS leadership stated:
… a strategy to win a fair settlement to the dispute must involve a programme of action involving joint national strike action with other unions; joint national, regional and local protests; lobbying of ministers, MPs and other politicians; and co-ordinated targeted industrial action in some sectors.
We are not told what “a programme of action involving joint national strike action with other unions” means; is it a strike once a month; once every four months – what? We agree that there should be “joint national, regional and local protests; lobbying of ministers, MPs and other politicians” – but that is not going to win either. Lastly we have “co-ordinated targeted industrial action in some sectors”; what does that mean? In PCS we have a number of departmental and local disputes ongoing: are they part of co-ordinated targeted industrial? Who knows; we don’t think the PCS leadership know either.
The PCS leadership in fact has lurched from one day strike to the next one without any clear plan as to how to win. One day strikes followed by four or more months of inaction do not win disputes and yet that is the only type of industrial campaign run by the NEC to date.
In contrast we argue we fight on pay and jobs as well as pensions. The industrial action ballot won in the PCS was on all three of these issues. Job losses have not lessened in the past year; the government is openly planning to shed tens of thousands of jobs over the next three years. On pay it has gone on the offence with not only a pay squeeze (increases limited to a maximum of one percent ) but also regional pay (this would mean workers in Wales, NE, NW etc seeing no real pay increase s for most, if not all this decade). There is ample ammunition here to further motivate members.
Just as pensions have been the glue linking PCS to the other unions; pay and jobs should have the same adhesive effect. PCS should be leading a coalition of unions around all three issues.
We have argued that along with as much national action as we think members can bear; we want selective action as well, coupled with political and other actions. The selective action must be well planned, hitting the Government where it hurts most, supported by a voluntary membership levy. Alongside this must be far more effective political campaigning. As the local council elections have shown this government has become more unpopular and therefore potentially more vulnerable to industrial and political pressure.
It is vitality important that we get as many staff out on the 10th. Equally important we have to work out how to win.