By a civil servant
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who are civil servants in the Department of Pensions and Works (DWP) and other government departments have voted to take strike action in support of their 2003 pay claim. They have rejected the offer made by the government.
These departments had already held ballots to find out whether or not they rejected the pay offer. They had to have a second ballot on what action to take once they had rejected it. If they do not do this, they are in breach of anti-union legislation.
The legislation definitely does have the effect desired by anti-union governments, like Tony Blair's.
There has been some loss of momentum between the first and second ballots. In the DWP in the first ballot there was a turnout of 51%. The turnout in the department for the second ballot was lower, though over 40%. Hopefully, now the result is known and dates are set for strike action, the momentum can be built back up again.
The strikes will take place on 29 and 30 January. As much as one third of the whole PCS membership, 100,000 people, could be out on strike. And afterwards, activists are debating further action, a work to rule, or, hopefully, an escalation of the strike action.
There are other disputes going on in the Civil Service at the moment.
A recent ballot across the Civil Service produced a majority vote in favour of the principle of a national pay claim in 2004. Currently, pay bargaining takes place separately in the Civil Service's 172 bargaining units. With a national pay claim, claims will be submitted separately in each, probably on the same day, 1 April, but it will be the same claim across all the units. The union will monitor progress and run all the claims like one big campaign. It can provide special backing to those areas that have the least resources.
The ballot also supported defence of existing pension rights, which the Government wants to reduce, making civil servants work longer before they qualify for a full pension.
In London, there is also additional campaigning for a £4,000 London weighting allowance. A delegate meeting is planned 19 February to discuss the next steps in the campaign. We are hoping that we will be able to involve representatives from Unison, and from the Communication Workers' Union, both of whom are also pursuing a £4,000 London weighting claim.
There is plenty going on. We have got to keep up the momentum on all these fronts, and we will welcome the support of other groups of workers.