Article from the May 2004 edition, Socialist Voice
Civil service dispute Strike days must be set
CIVIL SERVANTS have solidly supported the selective strike action called by NIPSA. DVLNI local offices, Coleraine dole office, Teachers' pay and pensions in Derry, Health Service pensions in Derry, Child Support Agency and Rates offices in Belfast, Derry and Craigavon have all been out recently. More are being lined up to replace these if NIPSA brings them back to work.
By Paul Dale
NIPSA Civil Service Executive (personal capacity)
There is no doubt that NIPSA members are as strongly committed to winning this dispute as they were at the start. The disruption to public services is affecting other workers and the general public yet sympathy for the civil servants remains very strong as anyone on the picket lines can vouch.
Is this level of action enough, however, to win the claim? The danger is that Government ministers with no constituents could sit out a long dispute if the action remains at a level they see as "acceptable". It would be an irritant certainly but one they could tolerate. There is a danger that, on the current level of action, members could become frustrated and disillusioned before the Government really feels the heat.
Discussions at the Civil Service Executive, where the left Time for Change representatives are in a minority, have disagreed on whether to call for more strikes involving the whole civil service. The more cautious so-called Reclaim the Union majority have voted down the proposal that more strike days should be set.
The Time for Change activists are arguing for the action to escalate to all member action, linking with the teachers and PCS members in Britain in their own similar disputes and re energizing the campaign.
There is no doubt NIPSA is fighting a Government intent on regionalizing pay and paying workers in N. Ireland less than in Britain. It is also obvious the 2004 pay offer will go the way of the 2003 offer to achieve this aim.
The campaign should be relaunched with escalating days of all member action supported by the selective action and strike rallies. If a series of one day and two day strikes, called over a concentrated period, do not move the Government preparations should be made for all out strike action. If the nursery nurses in Scotland could take all out action and stay solid and determined, civil servants can do the same. Only by breaking Ministers' smugness and complacency can NIPSA regain the initiative and force management negotiators back to the table.
Further repots of the Civil Service dispute can be seen here