The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will launch a nationwide strike ballot on Friday 8 February. The ballot will close on 4 March.
PCS members will be balloted for strikes over a range of issues, including job cuts and attacks on pay. A union statement said: “Because of massive job cuts civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the public services that we all rely on. But instead of rewarding them, the government is cutting their pay, raiding their pensions and trying to rip up their contracts by cutting terms and conditions.
“A plan announced in the autumn to review all civil service working conditions could lead to longer working hours and fewer family-friendly policies. The four-year pay freeze and cap, and increased pension contributions, would cut pay by 16% on average by 2014.”
That PCS is balloting its members for strikes is positive, but its current strategy needs a radical overhaul if it is to beat the Tories.
Its insistence on balloting over a variety of issues at once may appear radical — “linking the struggles” — but in reality has the effect of reducing the strike to an expression of opposition to everything management is doing rather than an offensive action taken to win specific demands. PCS’s recent record also suggests that any strike resulting from this ballot is likely to be only one day – simply not long enough to have any serious impact on the employer. A one-day strike is not going to force the employer into a complete u-turn on all of its proposed cuts (which the union claims is its aim), especially when many of the attacks the strike is set to oppose have already taken place.
To force the employer to back down, sustained action and constant pressure are required.
Workers’ Liberty members in Independent Left, a rank-and-file caucus within the union, are pushing for a strategy based on rolling, selective, and escalating action, funded by strike pay.
The union must use strategic and creative action to maintain constant pressure on the employer while mobilising groups of workers around specific industrial demands.