It looks as if the civil service union PCS may move for a further strike on public-sector pensions around 28 March.
Since PCS was the only big union to reject the Government’s December “final offer” on pensions clearly and immediately, a continuing campaign for public-sector pensions hangs heavily on PCS initiative.
The lecturers’ union UCU set a strike for 1 March, but PCS has not come in on that date. The UCU Executive on 10 February is likely to debate whether UCU goes for a later date which PCS might back, or UCU general secretary Sally Hunt succeeds in her efforts to reverse the strike decision altogether.
To their members in general PCS leaders have not gone beyond quiet hints about further action on pensions being possible, but PCS insiders suggest that the PCS leaders in fact have a plan for a further strike in late March.
The scenario, so the insiders say, is this:
The government will produced “finalised” proposals around mid-February. (One estimate is 13 February; another is 20 February; the schedule may of course slip further).
PCS leaders will then “consult” their members (probably electronically) on whether to reject the “finalised” terms and take further action. They expect a positive response by early or mid-March.
They will then call a strike in late March, timed to be late enough that deductions from pay for strikers are felt not in end-of-March pay but in end-of-April pay.
About what PCS leaders plan after that there are not even rumours yet. It is also not clear whether the PCS leaders — who called their 30 June and 30 November strikes not just “about” pensions, but “about” pensions, pay, and jobs — will quietly reshape the campaign to be “about” pay, jobs, and pensions (with pensions as the minor theme).
Late March is late. For teachers, for example, it means that a one-day strike is followed by a pause, until all schools have finished Easter holidays and started the summer term, before any follow-up. It will mean workers have had four months of pause, with only rumours about further action, since the last strike on November, while the Government presses ahead on its “final” terms, and workers will start paying increased pension contributions (for worse pensions) from April.
From where we are now, though, the task for activists will be to build on a late-March strike call and argue for an energetic and rapid campaign of rolling and selective action to follow on from it.
• PCS Young Members Forum (3-5 February) discussed the pension dispute.