Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil servants’ union PCS, has called for a one-day public-sector general strike in early 2005 over pensions.
At a TUC lobby of Parliament on 16 November, he declared: “Unions across the public sector need a united campaign in the face of the growing pensions crisis. It is a crisis, which unless the government take steps to seriously address, raises the possibility of unions across the public sector taking united action in a one day strike in the run up to the general election.”
PCS members struck for one day on 5 November over government plans to worsen their pension provision as well as job cuts and pay.
Similar pension changes are threatened right across the public sector — in local government, in health, in teaching, in the fire service.
The changes will end “final salary” calculation of pensions — making pension payments meaner and more uncertain — and require workers to work longer to get their pensions.
If trade-union resistance is piecemeal — one union after another taking different sorts of action at different times — it will be weakened. Unity is strength.
Mark Serwotka has been approaching other public sector union leaders to discuss joint action for some weeks now. So far the other union leaders are silent.
Rank and file union activists cannot afford to wait and hope. Union branches and committees across the whole public sector should come out in favour of Mark Serwotka’s
appeal for action, and demand their union leaders respond.
PCS itself cannot afford to mark time, or to put off action on its own claims on the spurious argument that no action can be worthwhile or effective short of a full-scale public sector general strike. Strikes by civil servants in key sectors like the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise, supported by a PCS national levy, can hit government finances hard and raise confidence for broader action.
And in each city, the local branches of different public sector unions should come together to plan joint action even if the top union leaders won’t.