The PCS General Secretary writes for the Huffington Post
The decision made by virtually every public sector union at the TUC [on 14 September] was nothing short of historic. In my 10 years as leader of the PCS union, I have never known so many unions to be united and resolute.
It is now clear that unless the government enters into serious negotiations there will be up to three million public sector workers on strike on 30 November – and the unions involved have made it clear if necessary this will mean, as Brian Strutton of the GMB said, “days of action running through the winter, into next year and right into the summer”.
Why has this happened? It is because of the contempt shown by this government for public services, public sector workers and for the truth.
Facing a programme of over £80 billion of cuts no community in Britain is exempt from this onslaught – school buildings cancelled, libraries closing, bus services removed, and jobcentres closing as unemployment rises.
But there is also an ideological aspect to this as well. Alongside the cuts is the same old Tory obsession with privatisation: first it was the forests, then prisons, and now the whole NHS is set to be picked apart by multinational corporations.
The unemployment figures released [on 14 September] show 110,000 fewer public sector workers – and many are living in fear of their jobs and their futures. For those still in work they are living through the second year of a pay freeze, while living costs are rising over 5% per year.
On top of this, the government is attacking their pension – telling people they must work longer and pay more to receive a smaller pension. It is nothing short of a disgrace.
What adds insult to injury though is this government’s dubious approach to the truth. In advance of our strike alongside three teaching unions on 30 June, the prime minister said, public sector pensions were “in danger of going broke”.
Nothing could be further from the truth: the Hutton report shows the cost of public sector pensions going down while the National Audit Office, which assessed the pensions compromises we made with the last government, shows “long-term costs are projected to stabilise around their current levels”.
So if three million public sector workers take action on 30 November, they’ll be striking for their services, their jobs, their pensions and for honest negotiations. Please support them.
Follow Mark Serwotka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pcs_union