UK civil and public servants across 200 government departments, agencies and non-departmental bodies will be taking part in a second one day national strike today (1 May) in an escalation in a dispute over job cuts, pay and privatisation.
The second one day strike called by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will hit a range of services including courts, passports, tax, Jobcentres, galleries and driving tests. The May Day stoppage comes as the government continues to axe more than 100,000 civil and public servants, insist on below inflation pay rises and plough on with privatisation. The union is calling for a no compulsory redundancies guarantee, fair national pay, decent working conditions and agreements to protect workforces in outsourcing.
The strike also comes two days ahead of the local elections in England, Scotland and Wales where 64% of all candidates - and 79% of Labour candidates - who responded to a survey backed PCS’s campaign.
May Day has been designated a defend public services day by the TUC, who are supporting the PCS action.
Prompted by a refusal by the government and civil service management to resolve the dispute through direct negotiations or the conciliation service ACAS, the second one day stoppage follows an earlier civil service wide strike held this year on 31 January.
This strike hit the deadline for self assessment tax returns, saw court sittings disrupted, offices closed to the public and hit national museums and galleries. A subsequent two week overtime ban immediately following the 31 January stoppage saw the cancellation of the yearly blitz by magistrates’ courts to recoup unpaid fines across England and Wales.
The campaign has also seen industrial action over below inflation pay with members in the Ministry of Defence and Identity and Passports Service taking part in a one day strike at the end of March and workers in the Department of Health, Crown Prosecution Service, Land Registry and Learning and Skills Council embarking on a month of industrial action short of a strike, due to finish at the end of April.
Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said:
“The government and civil service management have point blank refused our offer to resolve this dispute through negotiation and ACAS. This belligerent stance has only provoked more confrontation and a second one day civil service wide strike. The heart of our public services is being ripped out as services suffer in the race to slash jobs. At the same time the government is using its own workforce, a quarter of whom earn less than £15,400, as an anti-inflationary tool by insisting on capping pay at 2% while inflation creeps up to 5%. Added to which you have a dogmatic hostility to publicly run services and the misguided view that the private sector is always better than the public. PCS has and continues to stand ready to negotiate. The government and civil service management need to recognise that this isn’t a problem that will go away and need to start negotiating with the union to resolve the dispute.”
Below are some reports from local strike actions across the UK:
Warrington magistrates court: Most of the cases due to be heard today have been cancelled, except those that most go ahead for legal reasons
The Department for Education and Skills public enquiry line: customers are advised to call the switchboard or look at the DfES website
Eltham Palace in southeast London is expected to close
Many London museums and galleries are closed or operating a reduced service
Camberwell magistrates Court: 70% of court hearings are cancelled
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Brighton: public counter is closed
Dinnington Job Centre is closed
Haywards Heath county court is closed
Woolwich crown court: several trials are suspended as judges are reluctant to cross our picket line
Other interesting picket line stories include:
Corby debt centre: Firefighters from the Corby branch of the Fire Brigades Union give striking workers a very welcome bag of doughnuts to show their support
Asylum and Immigration tribunal, Islington: members of the public come to court wearing PCS campaign stickers
In Brighton, staff and students from the University of Sussex show solidarity with striking PCS workers and attend their rally at the Brighthelm centre after holding their own rally on campus
Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE) Cosford: staff report that management is taking officers away from guard duties to provide cover for striking instructional officers
RAF Cosford: training is disrupted as management reorganise rotas and moves people off security guard duty to try and provide classrooms cover
Food Standards Agency, London: a tray of cakes from members of the public boosts striking workers' spirits
Old Bailey, London: PCS welcomes 24 new members
Department for Work and Pensions: several offices report that the remote, computer-controlled door locking system is not allowing people into offices
HMRC Inverness: management flies in nonstriking staff from Nottingham to cover the enquiry centre where all the staff are out on strike
Ministry of Defence, Leaconfield: canteen staff provide pickets - and police officers - with sandwiches and snacks
Harlow county court: The 10 PCS members on the picket line estimate they have 175 years of service between them
Weymouth Jobcentreplus: two PCS members go into work but later reconsider and go home to show support for the strike
Employment tribunals, Bedford: members of the public - and some non-PCS members - sign our petition against attacks on jobs, pay and public services
Child Support Agency, Dudley: live music on the picket line entertains striking members
HM Revenue and Customs, Sidlow House, Dundee: a delivery truck and postal van both refuse to cross the picket line when staff explain why they are striking
Department for Work and Pensions, Shrewsbury and Telford: PCS welcomes 10 new members in time to support the strike
HM Revenue and Customs Wrexham: members report that a leafleting campaign has generated massive public support
Folkstone jobcentre: the area manager comes in to cover the office himself to prevent closure
HM Revenue and Customs, Riverhouse: MSP Danny Alexander and SNP candidate Dave Thompson join PCS members on the picket line
The Imperial War museum, London: press office staff cover for museum assistants in an effort to keep the museum open
HM Revenue and Customs, Oxford: the enquiry office opens late due to staff absence - one unlucky customer is even in the car park
HMRC Cambridge: the Labour parliamentary candidate for Arbury and the chair of Cambridge Trades Union Council join PCS members on the picket line with good solid support from Unison.