Civil service dispute - action must be escalated
THREE MONTHS on from the first one-day strike in the current dispute by civil servants, industrial action is still taking place across all departments. The second all out strike day on 6 February was supported by the overwhelming majority of workers. Support for the action in pursuit of a pay increase and anger among civil servants is growing.
By Carmel Gates, Civil Service Executive and NIPSA President
NIPSA members were particularly incensed by the news that senior civil servants are set to receive pay increases of up to 14% from April 2004, on top of the 9% increases and £6,000 cash bonuses they received in 2003. They are lining their pockets while they tell workers earning £10,000, and who have not had a pay increase for 2 years, that there is no money available!
Instead of negotiating a settlement, Finance Minister, Ian Pearson has put two fingers up to the union by writing to each individual member of staff to say "I want to make it absolutely clear that this really is the final amount for 2003".
Pearson's arrogant approach is reflected in the bully boy tactics of management. Workers have been suspended, have had flexi hours removed and have been threatened with having their pay docked by 20% if they continue to work to rule.
The work to rule is biting hard and selective strike action is due to be stepped up. In early March workers in the Jobs & Benefits Office in Newry, the SSA in Lurgan and the Tribunal office in Belfast will join the long list of those who have taken selective strike action. While this is causing severe disruption to services and has forced management to make noises about negotiations, if Pearson continues to hold firm it will not be enough.
Every NIPSA member is well aware of what is at stake in this dispute. Unless we are successful, the nil% pay increase imposed this year will be the norm for years to come. Regional pay is on the horizon, our terms and conditions, our pension rights and job security will be wiped out. It is now quite clear that we must unleash the full force of our union strength against a government that is refusing to bend.
Members do not want to see this dispute drag on indefinitely. If talks with management fail the Civil Service Executive must be made to listen to members and intensify the action. The work to rule must be sharper, selective action more frequent and wide spread and dates for strike action by all members must be set.
An immediate two day strike followed swiftly by a rolling programme of strikes culminating in an all out strike will be the only way to ensure victory. Our comrades in the rest of NIPSA are waiting for the call to support us. If we link our action to other public sector workers such as civil servants in Britain and teachers and lecturers who are also in dispute over pay, we can win.