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End austerity in the civil service: General election now


The Socialist 11 September 2019   |

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PCS members marching against cuts, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Party members in PCS

Prior to the conference of the Trade Union Congress, a motion was put by Socialist Party members and others to the national executive committee (NEC) of the PCS civil servants’ union.

This called for a national demonstration against austerity, for an immediate general election, for the end of the anti-union laws and for the renationalisation of Royal Mail and the railways. The motion was defeated by those on the NEC who mistakenly want opposition to a no-deal Brexit to be at the forefront of the union’s campaigns.

Whether it’s Brexit accomplished by a Tory government, or Remain, accomplished by a Tory government or some coalition of Tories, Liberals and right-wing Labour MPs, each represent a threat to civil service workers and to the communities that we serve.

On the one hand, there may be decisions to move staff between departments and away from the work they were recruited to do or to transfer staff offices.

There may be specific attacks on EU nationals who work for the civil service and related bodies. Staffing has been slashed to pieces and yet the civil servants covering the Border Force or Customs will be expected to handle the mammoth task of an emergency exit from the single market.

On the other hand, there will be a continuing bleeding of the civil service and our privatised brothers and sisters in companies such as ISS, Aramark, Interserve, G4S. The devastating closures programme which has seen hundreds of Jobcentres and tax offices close, and lost tens of thousands of jobs will continue (including in specialisms that supported the vulnerable to claim benefits or which investigated tax avoidance by the super-rich), as will pay cuts.

For our union the key task should not be falsely posing Remain as an answer to the real fear of further Tory attacks. It should be mobilising our members to defend ourselves from attacks – especially if there are threats by the nationalistic cabal around Johnson to remove members of our union from their jobs or from the country based on their nationality.

We should be mobilising to demand a general election to decisively end austerity, by pushing a Corbyn-led government into power and holding it to promises about trade union rights, pay and national bargaining in the civil service, which include substantial improvements for union members on private sector contracts.

Corbyn and McDonnell should be sent to Brussels to negotiate an exit from the EU which could be an international platform from which to defend workers’ rights and to attack reactionary policies, such as the posted workers directive and the rules against nationalisation and state subsidies that protect jobs.

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