PCS to join October 14

Submitted by AWL on 4 September, 2014 - 10:54 Author: Gerry Bates

The civil service union PCS is almost certain to join the unions striking on 14 October over pay.

Local government workers who struck on 10 July are already set to strike again on 14 October. This time they may be joined by health workers also demanding pay rises.

Health workers’ wages have dropped in real terms every year since 2009, and between 12 and 15 percent since 2010.

This year 60% of workers are offered no rise, and others get one percent.

Unite health workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a strike ballot running from 26 August to 26 September; Unison health workers in England, from 28 August to 18 September.

GMB is balloting in England and Northern Ireland between 10 September and 1 October.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is balloting in England from 8 to 29 September.

(Unison will ballot health-workers members in Wales from 30 September, but with the ballot closing on 20 October, too late for them to join 14 October action).

A pay revolt is overdue across the board. Between 2008 and 2013 the median (middling) worker lost ÂŁ2000 a year.

For workers aged 18 to 25, the average drop was 14%; for those aged 25 to 29, it was 12%.

The squeeze on middling and lower wages continues, despite the recovery in profits, share prices, top salaries, bonuses, and even overall measures of economic output. The government’s cuts in benefits and services have compounded the blow to working-class living standards.

Probably the union leaders’ hope is that a few protests will nudge the government into trying to mend its popularity in the run-up to the May 2015 election by cutting some slack on pay. Unfortunately there is no evidence that one more day’s strike will move the government.

A real revolt is necessary. It should not be limited to the public sector. United action is good, but pay battles do not require any group of workers to wait for all the ducks to be in line before they themselves act.

PCS members, whilst welcoming the union leaders deciding to join in with the other unions on 14 October, will ask not only “what next” but also “what if”.

There is abundant evidence that grand cross-union coalitions can be unstable. Indeed at least one leading light in the PCS says that there will be no further action by Unison and Unite this side of the general election so as not to embarrass Mr Miliband. He deplores that, but his tacit conclusion is that PCS will take no further action either.

PCS and other unions must have their own plans in place for action beyond 14 October, even if some opt out of further battle.

If not, then 14 October will be wonderful, with the power of the labour movement plain for all to see, but we will have to repeat the words of the French general in the Crimean war who on observing the charge of the Light Brigade said: “It is magnificent, but it is not war”.

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