Civil service pay dispute - escalate to win!

CIVIL SERVANTS are determined to continue their industrial action over pay. Three months into the action the Government are still sticking to their 0% increase which, in reality, represents a pay cut.

By Paul Dale, Civil Service Executive Committee NIPSA (personal capacity)

This has provoked widespread anger among civil servants, many of whom are on poverty wages. The action that has been called so far has been solid and has had an impact.

There have been selective strikes across most Departments, with benefits' offices, the office of industrial tribunals, the Child Support Agency and the MOT centres just some of the services that have been affected.

NIPSA members know that there is a great deal at stake in this dispute. It is not just a question of the 2003 rise but potentially of future rises. In the background is the threat announced in the budget to cut tens of thousands of UK civil service jobs which is a warning as to what may happen to the Northern Ireland Civil Service in the future.

This is why New Labour cannot be allowed to win this dispute. There can be no retreat. Instead the action must be maintained and intensified in order to bring about a victory.

The selective action, the overtime ban and the ban on the use of cars are biting. But on their own they are not likely to put enough pressure on the government to come up with a decent offer. Many members are concerned that the action has already dragged on too long. There is a danger that, if it is not escalated, it could lose momentum and members could become disillusioned.

This is why Socialist Party members on the Civil Service Executive Committee of NIPSA are arguing that the action should be stepped up immediately. There should be more selective action hitting more services and for longer periods. This should be linked to an escalating programme of strike action involving all civil service members. Dates should be set for one day and two day strikes building to an all out strike if the more limited action does not succeed.

It is difficult for any group of workers to take action and feel they can win on their own. The Fire Brigades Union, drawing on the lessons of their own dispute where, apart from financial backing from NIPSA, they were left largely to fight on their own, have given a lead by giving financial and moral support. Members of the PCS, the main civil service union in Britain are currently also involved in industrial action over pay. PCS members in a number of Departments will be on strike on 13 and 14 April. NIPSA should attempt to co-ordinate future strike days with the PCS so that there is the maximum impact and maximum pressure on the government.

This article is from the April 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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