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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Power in defence of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression

Following an emergency motion passed at PCS Annual Delegate Conference in May PCS members were balloted for strike action.
Conference condemns the policies of the coalition government which are designed to cut hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs, cut services, attack public sector workers’ pensions, and which have imposed a two-year pay freeze.
Conference further condemns the proposed redundancies that have been recently announced in a number of areas and believes they could have been avoided.
Conference notes that the government has already made it clear that it will implement the Hutton proposals meaning members will pay higher contributions and work longer for a lower pension.
Conference believes that it was not the jobs, pensions or pay of public sector workers which caused the economic crisis and rejects the coalition government’s attempts to scapegoat public services.
Conference welcomes the recommendation of the April NEC for a national ballot for discontinuous strike action and for discontinuous action short of a strike. Conference further welcomes the ongoing talks with the education unions for joint action involving hundreds of thousands of public sector workers.
Conference therefore instructs the incoming NEC to:
  • Proceed with a national ballot in defence of jobs, pensions and pay
  • Continue to work with other trade unions to co-ordinate the action for maximum impact.
Conference therefore urges all members and activists to prioritise mobilising for a ‘yes, yes’ vote.”
PCS members have now voted 61% for strike action and 83% for action short of strike in defence of jobs, pay and pensions. The NEC met on 15th of June immediately after the close of the ballot and agreed that action would start with a one day strike on 30th June followed by a 1 month over time ban from 1 -31 July.
We will be taking co-ordinated strike action on the 30th with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the University and College Union (UCU). Unless the government reverses its decision to force public sector workers to work for longer and pay more in order to receive their pension, all four unions consisting of 750,000 workers will be taking strike action.

PCS members are facing a pay freeze which in real terms is a pay cut, our employers and government are failing to adhere to the national protocols on redundancies and privatisation and we stand to lose hundreds of thousands in the change from our existing final salary pension scheme to a career averaging scheme and face working 5 to 8 years longer in order to receive it.

In the meantime poor young people are forced out of education because of cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance and tripling of fees with no option of a job if they don’t stay in education with high unemployment levels which will only get worse if older people are forced to work longer in order to receive a pension.

The cuts are not just hitting us as workers but as families and communities with local authority budget cuts and cuts to the voluntary sector meaning facilities and services in our local communities will no longer be there, some of which provide a life line to people in desperate need of support, advice or facilities.

Black people, women and disabled people stand to bear the brunt of the cuts whilst our employers and government are failing to pay due regard to race, gender and disability law when making decisions about cuts.

The future is bleak for everyone but if you are poor, young, old, a woman, black or disabled the future holds nothing but severe hardship and for many,  living hand to mouth for  years to come – families in Britain are already relying on food parcels just to survive and with the threats to social housing could find themselves separated from the networks they rely on for support or worse homeless.

As a black woman and a single parent nothing I have in my life was handed to me. I have had to work very hard for all I have and overcome prejudice and discrimination along the way.   I am now faced with a pay freeze whilst inflation rises and the basic cost of living, transport costs, fuel costs etc rise every month which means I have to make difficult choices about what I can afford to pay for and what my family will have to go without. I have a 17 year old son who next year will face extortionate fees in order to go to university and get an education whilst my income is reduced.  Working in the public sector does not come with perks but was supposed to be a secure job with whilst not a huge pension would give me some security in retirement. I’m really concerned about the prospects for my son and his generation – we have to ensure that there is something left for them to look forward to.

All of this leaves me and us with no other choice but to fight back. Every member of a union needs to be an activist, every non member needs to join. We need to reach out to the vulnerable, work with others so they feel empowered, supported and strengthened to stand against these attacks whilst dispelling the myths and lies about gold plaited pensions and high salaries spread by politicians and the media. People have to channel their fear and anger into action and be united to do this.

The 30th of June must cause maximum disruption and send a strong message to government that workers, students, pensioners, unemployed people and our families are not taking action as a one off protest but as the start of a campaign uniting people across the UK against these ideological cuts. We need to campaign for the alternative and build for action across the wider trade union movement following on from the 30th and to continue fighting together until we win.

Malcolm X said ‘Power in defence of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression.’ We have to assert that greater power we all possess.

By Zita Holbourne
PCS NEC (pc)
Joint National Chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK

(First published at  17 June 2011)

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