By a civil servant
On 29 and 30 January four small departments in the civil service took strike action in support of pay claims: the Department of Constitutional Affairs, the Prison Service, the Home Office, and the Treasury Solicitor's Department.
Workers in those departments took solid action, for the most part, but were very disappointed that workers in the much larger Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), who were also due to come out, suspended their action. The strikers were left feeling isolated.
On the day before the strike action was due to take place, the Executive Committee of the PCS union in the DWP received a revised pay offer from management.
The additional money was not great. Workers were being offered a non-consolidated lump sum of £100. Pay maximas were to be increased by 2.95% (the original offer was 2.6%). Administrative Assistant grades minima was to be increased to £10,650 (the original offer was £10,300). There was the offer of a slight improvement in the progression mechanism - from £40 to £70 - for various grades.
For the SSP and Socialist Party members on the Executive Committee the decisive change in management's negotiating stance was the promise of discussion about a new appraisal system which will be linked to the pay regime and introduced some time in 2004. There are to be certain quotas for pay increases for certain markings.
However, a leaked document from senior management shows that this new system is to be the cornerstone of their pay plans for the next three years. Therefore no significant movement or change on this issue is going to happen! Management are dug in, and we should be too!
There were other reasons stated for suspending the action, none of which make any kind of sense.
First, it was said that the union would be "taking on the Treasury". Er, yes! That's the case whenever the civil service unions take action. It was also said that management might issue a statement to workers about the revised offer: this would confuse people and members would want to know why the union was not negotiating. But can't the union explain what is going on to members?
Pay talks in the DWP resume on 4 February (as Solidarity goes to press). The Executive is due to meet in the week beginning 9 February and will decide whether to resume the suspended action.
Many DWP members are angry about the strike action being suspended. The strike was set to be solid. Socialist Caucus people and others have been organising workplace meetings in the last few days. The feedback, particularly in London and other big cities, is that members thought the Executive was wrong to call off the action. Let's hope the Executive in the DWP takes note.
The action should not have been suspended. The department should get the action going again and soon. The Driving Standards Agency are currently balloting for industrial action. If that is agreed, as seems likely, the DWP should come out with the DSA.