Budget day strike remains solid despite management intimidation

March 25, 2010

The third day of the strike over CSCS remained solid.  Reports in so far indicate that 60% of staff took strike action at Finchley JCP (a big increase from the first 2 days), with 65% taking art at Wood Green (where 5 members picketed) and a whopping 90% of staff taking part at Barnet JCP (where 11 members joined a very lively picket line).

This was despite ludicrous attempts by management to intimidate members.  At Wood Green, 4 managers (including the CSOM and the deputy District Manager, who clearly had no actual work to be getting on with) stood out the front of the building and attempted to interfere when members stopped to speak to the picket line.  At one point, the CSOM was seen to walk 200 yards down the road to put her arm arond a strikebreaker and usher them inside.  The only possible reading of this is that management are clearly rattled by how successful and well supported the strike has been – so congratulations to all members taking part.  Those managers attempting this attempt to undermine the action, some of whom claim to be PCS members, well they have to live with their own consciences.

The picture across the country was one of strength, again with around 200,000 PCS members reckoned to have taken part, and a number of large demonstrations including hundreds protesting in Parliament Square as Alistair Darling presented a disgraceful budget of cuts and attacks on working people.  More will follow, some pictures from the day are below:

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‘Darling, don’t be so rough’ – strike and protest on budget day

March 21, 2010

Support for this Wednesday’s strike action is vital for all civil servants.  The attack on the compensation scheme if successful would put all of our jobs at risk of being cut or privatised.

The strike date of 24 March has been chosen very carefully.  Members should note that this falls after the pay cut-off i.e. taking part in this action will not affect your pay in March.  But more importantly budget day is hugely important to the government, which is attacking us – and has been chosen to put maximum pressure on them.

For this reason, PCS has called a demonstration at the Houses of Parliament between 11am and 2pm on the day of the strike.  We want as many PCS members as possible to come down after picketing and make it clear to Darling that we won’t accept his attempts to cut our terms and our jobs.   Please come to the demonstration and bring with you anyone who doesn’t want to see public services cut and ordinary workers forced to pay for an economic crisis they had no part in creating.

Members may wish to note that the deficit in the economy is £175billion.  The amount of tax not collected in this country last year was £175bn.  To solve the problem of the deficit, the government needs only to collect that tax.  This is also why it’s madness to be closing tax offices at the moment.

Racist EDL driven out of Bolton despite disgraceful police violence

March 21, 2010

Anti-fascist protestors from Unite Against Fascism emerged victorious in Bolton yesterday from protesting against the racist English Defence League.  Over 2,000 people – young and old, men and women, black, white and Asian joined the mobilisation to stop several hundred members of the EDL, which has strong links to the BNP and other fascist organisations, from being able to terrorise the community in Bolton; a massive step forward from when the EDL marched in Stoke last month and assualted black and Asian people and attacked a mosque.

Our demonstration was hugely successful despite the police behaving utterly disgracefully – huge numbers of anti-fascists, protesting peacefully, were punched or hit with truncheons by the police who, in an attempt to provoke a riot, also arrested large numbers of us, including disgustingly arresting the National Joint Secretary of Unite Against Fascism as he addressed the rally.  The police also kettled several hundred of us in the main square for several hours, and left many people requiring medical treatment and refused to allow local Asian youths to join the demonstration, clear racism on their part.  The racists, who have repeatedly been filmed in recent months chanting racist slogans and seigheiling, experienced no such brutality from the police.  It is worth remembering that a few years ago a BBC documentary exposed the racism endemic within Greater Manchester Police.

The anti-fascist demonstration held firm, despite all this and provocation from the racists, and celebrated as the EDL were forced to withdraw from the square and leave.  Meanwhile locals clapped and cheered as the anti-fascists marched through town.

Yesterday was a big victory but our job is not yet done.  The EDL has announced plans to march in Dudley on April 3.  PCS is funding and organising a coach to the demonstration to oppose them – please join us and help drive these racists off the streets and back into the the gutter where they belong.  Tickets can be booked by emailing dwpnorthlondonpcs@googlemail.com or phoning 07703 058 770.

UAF demonstration against the EDL in Bolton

PCS members join the demonstration

UAF supporters on the victory march after seeing off the racists

Take action on budget day – support the strike, picket, protest

March 16, 2010

Last week’s 2-day action was very well supported by members, with many offices reporting their highest turnout in a number of years.  Now we need to do even better on 24 March – budget day.

Striking on budget day puts the pressure onto the government.  The major parties are planning huge cuts to the civil service and to public services in general.  This is our opportunity to fight back in defence of our jobs and the services we deliver.  The changes to CSCS would pave the way for mass job cuts and privatisation.  But if we stand together we can turn the tables on the politicians.

On 24 March we want you to support the strike, but we also want you to involve yourself.  Speak to your local rep about helping to picket your office.  And then come down to parliament and protest against the cuts.  PCS is calling on its members and anyone else who wants to see public services defended to protest outside parliament on 24 March from 12pm.  Even if you can’t picket your office, come down to the demonstration, make it clear to Alistair Darling that civil servants won’t put up with seeing our contracts torn up and our jobs cut on the cheap.

Stop the racist EDL in Bolton – Join the PCS coach to the demonstration

March 14, 2010

The English Defence League, a group of racist thugs and football hooligans with strong links to the Nazi BNP plans to march in Bolton on 20 March in order to whip up racism towards Muslims.

These thugs spread fear and terror when they rampaged through Luton and Stoke recently.  They smashed cars, attacked shops and assaulted Asian people.  When some locals tried to stop them they were called ‘race traitors’ and attacked.

Don’t believe the EDL’s lies when it claims to be a ‘peaceful’ group opposed to ‘Muslim extremism’.  It is nothing of the sort.  The EDL is a group of violent bigots that wants to intimidate and attack all ethnic minorities.

They should not be allowed to march in Bolton.  Join the Unite Against Fascism protest to show these racists and fascists that they are not welcome.  PCS is running a trade union coach to the demonstration.   Please call 07790 748455 to book your place.  PCS members are asked to make a donation for their ticket – non-members tickets will cost £20 waged, £10 low-waged/unwaged.

Further media coverage of DWP North London PCS Branch taking part in the CSCS strike

March 14, 2010

See this article from the Barnet Press.

Further National action called – all out on 24 March – budget day

March 10, 2010

Stepping up the pressure: national action called for 24 March – members please note change of date

Date: 10 March 2010

  • Keep the pressure up
  • Support the national overtime ban
  • All out 24 March

The action on 8 & 9 March was a great success, solidly supported by members across the UK, and with extensive media coverage. Reports are also available. Over 200,000 PCS members were on strike.

We now need to keep the pressure up on the employer to come to a negotiated settlement.

Success on 8 & 9 March

The action on 8 & 9 March included:

  • Crown and county court sittings cancelled across England and Wales.
  • Jobcentres offering little or no service to the public.
  • Solid support among Met Police civilian staff working, including 999 operators, community support officers and picket lines at Houses of Parliament for the first time in a generation.
  • An estimated 4,000 driving tests cancelled.
  • Severe problems calling tax and benefit call centres with some switching to recorded announcements.
  • Glasgow passport office closed, appointments cancelled in London and 80,000 passports delayed.
  • Severe disruption at Gatwick as 70% of UK Border Agency staff took part in the strike action, and delays at other ports of entry.

Well attended strike rallies were held across the UK. The London march and rally was supported by several hundred members and won the support of a number of general secretaries of other unions and the TUC.

Media coverage in the run up and of the strike itself was unprecedented across TV, radio, web and print. It was covered on news bulletins throughout the day on all national TV and radio stations and appearances by the general secretary included the Today programme, 5 Live, BBC Breakfast TV, GMTV, Sky news, Channel 4 news. UK-wide broadcast coverage was supported by excellent coverage over the two days in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions, where the media visited picket lines and interviewed reps and full time officials.

The message has gone out loud and clear that we will not accept changes to the CSCS that would mean:

  • Everyone’s job under greater threat than ever before
  • For many people with longer service, the loss of a third of their entitlements, possibly tens of thousands of pounds
  • People currently over 50 losing access to an enhanced pension other than on compulsory redundancy
  • People reaching 50 in the future losing access to an enhanced pension
  • Voluntary severance packages becoming less generous and will be at employer discretion
  • People with reserved rights (pre-1987) losing more than half of their entitlements
  • People facing privatisation transferring with far less protection – therefore making privatisation more likely

National overtime ban

A national overtime ban is now in effect. The ban will run until 6 April in the first instance. It will be kept under review by the national executive committee. Guidance for reps and members’ leaflets on the overtime ban have been distributed to branches. These, and all other materials, are available on the PCS website.

If we are to defend members’ entitlements under the CSCS, and defend our jobs, it is very important we do not allow our strike action to be undermined by the employer getting people to work overtime to clear backlogs created by the action.

Branches should now discuss implementation of the ban, seeking advice from Group offices where necessary.

Further action – all out 24 March

We have had successful action. We now need to keep the momentum up. The national executive has decided to call a national strike on Wednesday 24 March – to coincide with the budget.

A members mailing will be issued to ballot addresses shortly. Meetings with members and other face to face contact using the material on the website should be carried out as a priority to build support for the strike.

Regional meetings of reps are being organised to discuss building the action. These meetings will take place over the next few days. More details will be issued by your regional office.

This is the key period to take such action, in the run up to a general election and before the 1 April when the amendments to the scheme come into effect. The union has made suggestions to the employer that would enable the government to make the savings it says it must make at the same time as protecting existing members’ entitlements. An agreement is within reach but we must step up the pressure.

Legal action

We continue to pursue legal action. The government are attempting to delay this in the courts. Industrial action will help to keep the pressure on.

Lobbying

We have written again to Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Civil Service, stating that we should meet to discuss a negotiated settlement. The government has attempted to downplay the action and disgracefully has tried to reject the prospect of an agreement to settle this dispute. But we know that political pressure on the government has grown, with 162 MPs signing an Early Day Motion. More action can have an effect.

John McDonnell MP, the Chair of the PCS Parliamentary Group, has urged us to continue to lobby MPs and ask them to contact the Minister to urge her to come to an agreement and avoid more damaging action.

Branches are urged to plan lobbies of MPs surgeries where they take place on 19 March and to encourage members to write again to their MPs.

Hardship funds

Hardship funds exist for members in financial difficulties. Please contact your group office for details.

Branches must now:

  • Discuss implementation of the national overtime ban.
  • Attend reps’ regional briefings: further details will be issued soon.
  • Use the campaign materials and talk to members about the action on the 19 March, holding meetings wherever possible.
  • Plan to lobby local MPs on the 19 March wherever surgeries are taking place, and urge members to write again to MPs. Detail are on the PCS website.

NEC members and senior full time officers are available to speak at meetings: contact the President’s Office (janice@pcs.org.uk) for NEC members’ availability; contact the General Secretary’s Office (llydon@pcs.org.uk) in the first instance for the availability of SFTOs.

Thank you for your hard work so far. Industrial action is only called as a last resort and we know that it is not easy for members. But this is the most important dispute we have had for many years. Now is the key time to build more pressure on the government to reach an agreement to settle this dispute.

Mark Serwotka        Janice Godrich
General Secretary   President

Support the overtime ban – don’t let management clear the backlogs

March 10, 2010

The first 2 days of strike action have been very effective – now we need to maximise the effect.

PCS has called a national overtime ban until 6 April.  This means that until this time you should not volunteer for any overtime, but also only work your contracted hours, take your breaks, only do your own job (don’t cover other people’s), and only work up to your benchmarks.  This is what will make our 2 days’ action most effective.  If management attempt to intimidate or harass you into doing more (this has already been reported), please contact your local rep immediately.

To any members who worked during the strike, obviously branch is disappointed, however we would ask you to donate a portion of your pay from the strike days to the branch hardship fund.  You can do this by sending a cheque or postal order, payable to PCS DWP North London Branch (and with hardship fund written on the reverse) to PCS Branch Treasurer, Hendon JobCentre Plus, Crown Building, 10 Finchley Lane, London NW4 1DP, or passing it to your local rep.

CSCS stike – day 2 (Tuesday)

March 10, 2010

Reports recived so far indicate that day 2 was even stronger than day 1.  In our branch area, again over two thirds of staff stayed out at Barnet, with 65% out at both Wood Green and Tottenham.  We’re still waiting for news on some other sites.  Elsewhere the Scottish and Welsh parliaments were closed both days , and many MPs refused to cross the picket line to enter the House of Commons and hundreds of PCS members marched and rallied in Central London.  This is just a snapshot, please see the main PCS website for more.

The strike in our branch was also covered in the press – see the report in the  Haringey Independent.

All members taking part have done brilliantly so far; now we need to keep the pressure on to win this.  In other excellent news, Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals UNISON branch has voted to donate £100 to our branch hardship fund.

CSCS Strike – day 1

March 8, 2010

4 members joined the picket at Wood Green Job Centre.  Andy Lawson, DWP North London PCS Branch Organiser said ‘This is the strongest strike we’ve seen here for many years.  Only about a third of the staff have gone in; management may pretend they’ve run a service today but in reality very little will have happened inside.  Members understand this is about job security and a defence of public services.  We also persuaded the postie not to cross our picket line, and he left without delivering the Job Centre’s mail’.   Early reports indicate a picket-line of 8 at Barnet, with RMT members visiting the picket line in support, again with only about a third of staff going in, and 50% of staff out at both Tottenham and Enfield Job Centres.

This is an excellent start, now lets push to make things even more solid on day 2.  United, we can win.