civil servants in jobs fight


Civil servants across the country are balloting for a one-day strike on 5 November over a wave of planned redundancies. The Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS) says that 100,000 job cuts are unreasonable, unnecessary and will damage public service.

Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in the Budget that he wanted to reduce the size of "Whitehall". Most of the jobs lost would be from local offices around the country, mainly from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise. Since March other possible cuts have come to light as well.

Brown is looking for efficiencies from IT systems and online business - at the expense of traditional face-to-face contact with the public. The losses are set to fall in two main programmes. The number of DWP offices will be cut, as was known before the Budget, but the extent of the closure programme came as a surprise. The first round of 2,000 job cuts in 30 offices was announced in mid-September, leading to unofficial walkouts.

The other main savings come from the merger of Revenue and Customs, supposedly from greater efficiency in having one department rather than two. In fact many jobs will go from running down local offices. And Brown is counting on new private "partnership" contracts for IT and accommodation to save more large sums.

Brown has frustrated PCS and its members on pay deals for several years. Departmental pay deals are subject to Treasury approval, which always means less money. Several disputes have dragged on in recent years. And there are clear signs that the level of settlements will fall sharply over the next three years, as costs are cut.

The prospect of job cuts has spurred more opposition to government plans for the civil service. The union has called for its members to support the action in protest. These workers have many local reasons for grievance - now they all have to decide if they can build a wider campaign by striking in November.