Tuesday 30 January 2007

Entering a Spring of Discontent.

Tomorrow nearly quarter of a million civil servants will be on strike protesting at the way they are being treated by their employer, i.e. the government. I can fully understand why they are so angry and why they have been forced to take action.

I was in Parliament when, in the middle of the budget debate, Gordon Brown unilaterally announced without any consultation with unions or MPs 104,000 civil service job cuts.

I was at the PCS trade union conference when we heard that, in a speech to the City, the Chancellor had announced a pay cut for civil servants each year for the next three years.

I have been there listening to Ministerial statements announcing new rounds of privatisation in Government departments in services and on a scale not even dreamt of by Thatcher for selling off.

How does any New Labour Minister or MP expect public service workers to react when faced with this continuous attack on jobs, wages and conditions?

We are also faced with the risk on Thursday that the Government seeks the imprisonment for contempt of court of Brian Caton, general secretary, and Colin Moses, the president, of the Prison Officers Association.

Their crime is that when the Government tried to open new prison cells by forcing prison officers to work overtime, the POA reminded their members in a circular that the POA refuses to accept that the Home Secretary is able to demand compulsory overtime. The Government interprets this as industrial action and POA members are not allowed legally to take industrial action. And so to court!

In support of both the PCS and POA I will be joining a picket line in the morning and speaking at a strike rally in Westminster Cathedral Hall, off Victoria Street in the afternoon.

In addition I will be addressing the launch seminar organised by the Institute for Employment Rights on the Trade Union Freedom Bill.

If there is ever a time for the movement to back this Bill, it is now. We are entering a spring of discontent engendered by Government actions which are at times worse than some of the worst anti-union private companies.

Support the PCS and POA, but also the campaign for trade union rights.