Action on pay freeze (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 8 December, 2020 - 2:36 Author: John Moloney
PCS protest

The TUC General Council is due to meet shortly; one of the items under discussion will be possible coordinated action against a new public sector pay freeze. The case for coordinated action is obvious. It’s something PCS will push for as hard as we can through the TUC, and via our bilateral relations with other public sector unions.

But we can’t move at the pace of the slowest. We’re still arguing for an active, fighting response within PCS, and that’s not contingent on whether we can get coordinated action with other unions. Our own National Executive Committee will meet on 10 December, and that meeting will shape our initial strategy.

We have to be clear that one or two-day protest strikes won’t cut it here. There’s no point taking token action, we have to build a programme of action that’s designed to win, based on democratic discussion within the union. That will likely involve a combination of all-out national strikes along with selective and rolling action, where workers strike in a way that’ll have the maximum impact on the employer.

Although it’s been announced as part of a one-year spending review, we’re hearing rumours that the pay freeze may last more than a year, and that the government may launch a renewed offensive on public sector pensions. If the public sector pay freeze is consolidated, that will also put pressure on sectoral pay review bodies where they exist. All of that underlines the case for coordinated action that hits the bosses hard and fast. If the pay freeze is imposed with only minimal resistance, that will put workers on the back foot for the next few years.

The industrial action ballot result from our outsourced worker members in the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was a 94% majority for strike. They’re demanding increased safety provision and to be accommodated away from the workplace, as their (majority white) directly-employed workmates have been. Driving examiner members will also ballot to resist being pushed back into conducting exams before it’s safe.

• John Moloney is Assistant General Secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS (personal capacity)

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