Tag Archives: pcs

Civil Servants Vote YES to strike

Civil servants in PCS union have voted yes to strike action, and will be joining teachers who declared their ballot result yesterday, for a day of strike action on the 30th June.

61% voted in favour of strikes, with 83% voting in favour of action short of a strike.  This is an excellent mandate for action, although it falls short of the 92% yes vote from NUT members.  It shows us that the mood for resistance is their amongst public sector workers.

In Birmingham, we wait now for the result from Unison who are balloting 9,000 council workers for strikes on the 29th and 30th June to find out just how big the strike will be on that day locally.

Like the teachers, PCS members are taking industrial action over changes to the pension scheme, which will see them contribute more, work longer and get less once they retire.

Cuts to pensions form just one part of the attack on public services being carried out by this government, and this action is taken in the context of the austerity agenda being foisted on this country by an ideological government committed to neo-liberalism and a small state, and perfectly happy to let vulnerable people fend for themselves instead of us all working together to provide the best life for everyone.

The right wing press have already been running articles designed to soften the support for these strikes.  They portray strikers as selfish public sector workers, who have already got it so goodbut aren’t content with that.  They compare the “gold-plated” public sector pensions (average around £4,000 per year) to the poor private sector provision.

We need to be prepared to defend striking workers here – not in terms of the workers, but in terms of everyone else.

Thise strikes are being undertaken to defend services – an attack on the pay and conditions of public sector workers is an attack on the services themselves, as reducing the rewards for a job disincentivises it.  We need to be arguing against making this a race to the bottom when we hear people talking about how public sector pensions are so great and why should they have it so good when the rest of us are suffering.  And it is clearly not fair that public sector workers often have better pensions than private sector workers – but the answer to that is not to make public sector pensions worse, it is to improve private sector pensions.

The cuts are not inevitable.  There are alternatives.  These strikes are part of the wider  struggle against austerity and need to be seen as such.  The money is around, the wealthiest thousand people continued to rack up wealth last year, whilst working class people lose jobs and face pay freezes or cuts, and welfare reforms that seek to be removing the final safety nets in our society.  We need to resist the cuts and make sure that the agenda changes.  Join us on the 30th June to continue this struggle.

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30th June Strikes

On 30th June, we will see huge strikes taking place by public sectors workers.  Teaching unions NUT and ATL, and the civil service union PCS have voted YES to strike action on the 30th.  In Birmingham, UNISON are balloting their council workers for strikes on the 29th and 30th.

On the 30th, there will be a strike rally, assembling at Victoria Square at 12noon, with a march around the centre back to a rally, also in Victoria square.

We think it is important to stand up for our children’s education in schools, council services, our local colleges and our civil service too.
Council workers, Teachers, Lecturers and Civil Servants (who do everything from collecting taxes, serving our courts and providing a service to unemployed workers in jobcentres) all provide vital services to people in our city.
At the moment the government is trying to rob them of their pension. We are often told that public service workers have gold plated pensions and because people are living longer they are not sustainable, but this is not true.
It is the banking crisis at fault, not public sector workers. The government bailed out the banks over a trillion pounds and rather than get the money back from them, they are making US ALL pay.

What is worse is that there is over £120 billion in taxes which remain unpaid, evaded or avoided, by the rich.
It is very unfair the government wants to raid public sector pensions by cutting them by a third, increasing the pension age to 68 and making workers pay 50% more for it. This is the pension fund of people who have worked all of their lives to educate our children, help people find work and keep us safe.

If the taxes were collected from the rich there would be no need to be any cuts at all. That is why we urge you to support the public sector strike on the 30th June.

Printed leaflets are available to collect from the Unison offices, or you can download and print them yourselves from our resources page.

We will be doing a lot of leafletting in the run up to the 30th, please get in contact if you can help us – either email BirminghamAgainstTheCuts@Gmail.com or contact the local group if there is one in your area

If you are on facebook, attend the facebook event and invite your friends.

If you are not in one of the balloting unions, can you book annual leave on the 30th to show solidarity with strikers and join us at the strike rally? This could become a huge show of resistance to the cuts, and perhaps spark an upsurge in union activity heading into the autumn.

 

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Next PCS Strike at EHRC on 6th June

PCS workers at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are taking industrial action over planned cuts to their advice service. They have already held two 1 hour strikes, which were well attended and supported by Birmingham Against the Cuts amongst other local groups.

Their next strike will be on Monday 6th June, 11:30 – 12:30, Lancaster House, 67 Newhall Street, Birmingham, B3 1NA.

By taking regular but short strikes they will draw attention to how the cuts will affect the service and show a willingness to take further action, whilst minimising the disruption to people who desperately need to use the advice service provided.

Laura, who works at the office said:

I wanted to thank you all for your support over the industrial action that the EHRC has taken recently and to say that your support has enabled a wider audience to see what devastation the cuts are  to have in general for all disadvantaged individuals.
We will be seeking to send a delegation from Birmingham Against the Cuts to support this action, and hope that you will be able to join us, and the workers taking action to defend their public service.
Reports from previous strikes: 4th May & 11th May

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Report from Public Meeting on May 26th

Around 100 people attended the public meeting, chaired by Sandra Carter from GMB, held by Birmingham Against the Cuts yesterday (26th may).

Jack Dromey – Labour MP for Erdington – was the first speaker, and he spoke about a broad range of cuts happening around the region due to the £212million council budget cuts this year.  He talked about cuts to social care, telling us about meeting some people who were going to have their care withdrawn and how “the stories were truly heartbreaking”.  He also mentioned the victory in the court which should prevent some of the care being withdrawn for now at least.

Amongst other cuts he mentioned the closure of Advantage West Midlands, saying

It is an act of economic madness to abolish an organisation that for every £1 invested produced £8.14 in wealth

His sternest vitriol was reserved for the bankers, who continue to profit at the expense of ordinary people, and the coalition administrations both nationally and in Birmingham.

He finished calling for people to fight back, particularly against the idea that there is no alternative (that he has dubbed TINA) and the kick them out – of Birmingham in 2012 and national government in 2015.

The next speaker was Doug Morgan from NUT, filling in for Alex Kenny.  Doug spoke passionately about the ballot for strike action and the need for a yes vote, citing strikes in Tower Hamlets and Camden which have won small victories recently.

He spoke of the need to continue action against the government and said that

March 26th was not the end of the movement.  It was the beginning of the end of this government

He said that the 3oth June being a huge strike, and that it was important to call for a larger movement on the day, and that he is expecting to see 10,000 people on the streets of Birmingham.

The NUT will be balloting on pensions, and Doug debunked some myths about “gold=plated” public sector pensions.. I think he said that the average was around £4,000 / year (Doug, I hope you read this and can let me know if I’ve remembered wrong because for some reason I didn’t write this down!).. and told us that these pensions – which he described as ok, were the only thing holding private sector pensions (“rubbish”)  up at all – if public sector workers pensions are reduced there will be less pressure on the private sector to keep theirs where they are, let alone make them better.

He also said that attacks on public servants were attacks on public services and so everyone should support the strikes, and called for unity between the private and public sectors.

David Hughes from Unison was next up, talking about the upcoming ballot for strike action over contract changes at Birmingham City Council.

This council is intending to slash and burn council services in this city

The ballot will be over contract changes that will cut away allowances for evening, night and weekend shift work, meaning that some workers will lose 1/3rd of their pay.  Library assistants for instance, will lose £2,700/year.

There are also changes which will allow the council to place someone at any job within their paygrade, no matter what the location or times of work.

He said the cuts would be devastating and quoted a union member who told Unison

Me losing this money will mean me losing my home

Unison are balloting for strike on the 30th June

There was then a slight break in speakers as Pete Duffy, treasurer for Birmingham Against the Cuts made an appeal for donations to help us pay for the meeting, and for the production of leaflets in the run up to June 30th.  You can find out how to donate on our website here

Vici Whittall was next up.  She works for PCS at the admin office for the West Midlands regional prison service and she spoke about the privatisation of the prison.  Birmingham and Featherstone prisons are going to be outsourced to G4S — a private firm.

Pensions under threat, no pay rise for two years and now we’re being privatised

She also said that more prisons are to be market-tested – a process where the prison bids against private sector companies to provide the service.

They will also be balloting for strike action on 30th June – over pensions as part of PCS, rather than over the privatisation of the prison service I think.

On 30th June we will be demonstrating alongside striking workers – see our facebook event

The final speaker was Dr John Lister from Health Emergency, who spoke passionately about the fight to save the NHS, mentioning the 700 bed job losses that we demonstrated about on Monday as well as other cuts around the country.

we were told … they were going to ringfence and protect the NHS.  Nothing could be further from the truth

£20bn “efficiency savings” means cuts of 4% every year for 4 years – something that Dr Lister said had never been done anywhere in the world.  He also told us that the chair of Monitor (a new organisation setup to promote competition within the NHS) has said he thinks it will need to be £30bn.

He also told us of cuts to community mental health care in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, where 50% of staff – 100 posts – are going to go.  Of those 100 posts, 8 are admin or managerial – 92 are frontline job cuts. He described this as a

Brutal, vicious cut that will wreck the lives of vulnerable people

He spoke of how cuts to backroom staff took away the people the frontline staff need support from to be able to do their jobs.

Amongst other cuts he mentioned that Primary Care Trusts want to cut hospital usage by 15% (with A+E usage wanting to drop by 40%!).

Alongside the cuts is Lansleys health bill. and Dr Lister sums up his feelings to that by saying

I don’t want to see Lansley’s bill substantially changed, I want to see it substantially in the bin, along with Lansley

A new campaign has been launched by people put in touch by 38 degrees for our area – Save our NHS West Midlands.  I think many people will be taking action on the NHS – we had a demo on monday, and tomorrow, UK Uncut have a national day of action, with an event in happening in Birmingham at 11am.
I’m sure there will be lots of activity from plenty of groups over the forthcoming months as we seek to kill the bill and stop the cuts that will wreck our NHS.

There was then an unfortunately short time for people to speak from the floor (I’m not sure exactly why but it seems there was some miscommunication between us and the council house as to what time the meeting was to end).  Charlie Friel spoke of the connexions strikes, saying they had reduced redundancies from 70 to 35 and stopped compulsory redundancies.

Bob Williams-Findlay from Disabled People Against the Cuts spoke about the attacks of the condem government:

They are creating a new victorina era, where if you can pay you live, if you can’t you die

Richard Hatcher spoke of the attack on the education system from academies, saying that this was a strategy to privatise the education system.

Finally, Simon Furze spoke of the demonstration on 18th September at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Birmingham, that it will be a regional demonstration built with the support of anti-cuts groups from around the West Midlands.

If you wanted to say something but were unable to, please make a comment on this post and I’ll link it up on facebook 🙂

Sorry for the lack of pictures..

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EHRC PCS Strike Report

The latest national ‘lightning’ strike at the Equalities and Human Rights Commission took place today, Wednesday 11th May, from 11am till mid-day. Strikers at the Birmingham office held a public protest outside the Lancaster House building on Great Charles Street, complete with banners and placards. They received frequent toots from passing motorists as they distributed their leaflets to passers-by. These leaflets reminded people that the EHRC is facing a 68% cut to its budget and a 66% cut to its staffing.
The PCS union, which has overwhelming support from its members for the action, stresses that it is about defending essential services for the public, for those who face discrimination and for those who face human rights abuses, as well as about protecting jobs. At 12pm the strikers marched back into work, to applause from their supporters gathered outside.
For more information about the strike, see our post here
 This protest will not be the last, and once again it sets an example to other people threatened by the cuts.
The protest was supported by Birmingham Against the Cuts, and the strikers will have a chance to put their case to the public meeting that it is holding on Thursday May 26th at the Council House.
With thanks to Bob Whitehead for the report and photographs

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Save the EHRC: West Mids Proposed Office Closure

Last week saw PCS members working at the EHRC on strike.  Their next day of action is a one-hour walkout  on 11 May at 11am –12pm.  We are now asking our partners to join us for this day of action in support of our campaign to save the Commission for future generations.

EHRC workers on strike last week

The government has already announced it is withdrawing funding for the commissions helpline and grants programme. the Commission has also decided to close its regional offices, including the office based in Birmingham covering the West Midlands Region. These decisions will take effect by March 2012.

At a time of unprecedented cuts that will hit the most vulnerable in society hardest I’m sure you’ll agree that it is vital to show the government that we will stand together to protect this vital service.

We will be assembling on 11 May 2011, 11am – 12pm at the rear entrance to the Commission’s Birmingham office, (EHRC 3rd Floor Lancaster House, 67 Newhall Street, B3 1NA) on the public footpath (on the corner).

The Commission is proposing to more than halve the number of staff from 460 to 200 within 12 months – PCS is calling on EHRC chair Trevor Phillips to reveal his plans for the future of the organisation, challenging him to define the ‘core functions’ which he claims will be protected. The government is currently consulting over the Commission’s future and is proposing to amend the Equality Act 2006 to strip the Commission of many of its key powers and duties.

When the Commission was formed in 2007 its budget was £70 million. This was later reduced to £60 million, then £53 million by the new government last year. The government now wants to cut funding down to £22.5 million by 2015.

Cuts on this scale would mean employers and public authorities would no longer be held to account if they carried out discriminatory policies, and would also effectively end the commission’s legal work – a recent example of which ensured six million carers in Britain are protected against discrimination in employment.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

Our members are experts in their fields and this strike vote shows they are prepared to fight to maintain a proper national equality and human rights body at a time when government cuts are making it more likely people will face discrimination and disadvantage.

We do not accept the need for these cuts and the commission should talk to us urgently about the alternatives which would end the need for a strike and protect the vital services our members provide.

If you can’t join us on the day there are many other ways to support our campaign:

■ Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 923 to safeguard the remit, funding and staffing of the EHRC
■ Write to Theresa May MP, Minister for Women and Equality and other Minsters you or your organisation may have close links with asking them to maintain the EHRC functions servicing the communities.
■ Sign the petition http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43944.html. Please sign the online petition against EHRC cuts and ask your friends & family to sign.

PCS members on strike last week

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PCS and Connexions Strikes

Two strikes were held today in Birmingham, EHRC workers in PCS union held a strike from 11am-12noon, and Connexions workers in Unison from 1pm.

PCS Workers on strike

Around 40 people made up of PCS strikers and representatives from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC), Birmingham Against the Cuts (BATC) and the Right to Work Campaign held a lively picket in Birmingham today. Workers were striking against the proposed 68% cuts and 66% cuts in staff at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The picket was recieved well from passing traffic beeping their horns in support as well as receiving messages of support and solidarity from Connexions UNISON workers who are also on strike today against 30% cuts in staff in their service.

Hundreds of Connexions workers held vibrant and active pickets outside the remaining offices of the city. In April the Con-Dem council approved a 30% cut for Connexions placing 36 jobs, including advisers on the front line at risk.
Connexions Centres in Handsworth, Erdington and Aston have already been closed despite an alarming 40% increase in unemployment amongst young people in the city. Striking workers made their way to Victoria Square in the city centre on a double decker UNISON bus.
John Griffin the convenor for UNISON members in Connexions said: “We need to remember that young people and Connexions workers are now paying with their jobs and future prospects for the debts of bankers earning massive bonuses.

“Birmingham City Council has set a budget which puts these jobs at risk. Another solution needs to be found for the sake of the young people threatened with a lifetime of joblessness.”

The rally was also addressed by Graeme Horn, Birmingham UNISON Branch Secretary, Jagdish Singh a PCS representative from the Equality and Human Rights Commission who were today also on strike opposing 68% cuts in their service and the Birmingham City Council Labour group leader, Sir Albert Bore.

With thanks to Geoff Dexter for both the reports and photographs.  More photos from both strikes can be seen on his Flickr page.  If you would like to make use of them, please contact him.

Reports from previous Connexions strikes can be found on our Connexions tag

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Mayday Demonstration in Photos

The Banners


The March

The People

The Speakers

David Hughes - President Birmingham TUC

Graeme Horn - Unison Council Branch

Cllr Albert Bore - Leader Labour Group

Vez Kirkpatrick - Save the NHS West Midlands

Sian Ruddick - PCS

The Clarion Singers

Doug Morgan - NUT

Eleanor - Disabled People Against Cuts

Charlie Friel - UNISON Connexions

UKUncut Topshop Demo

Birmingham UKUncut activists outside the Bullring Topshop protesting about tax avoidance - Philip Green who runs Topshop has avoided paying hundreds of millions of pounds of tax since 2005

The Photographers

With thanks for the photos from:
Geoff Dexter Sherborne
Amy-Rose Deffley
Indymedia Birmingham
Pete Jackson/Right to Work
Mary Pearson
Bob Whitehead

You can read a full report of the event here. Apologies to any group whose banner I’ve not got a photo of, and the speakers I’ve missed.. and of course anyone else who would have liked to have seen their face here.  Thanks to everyone who turned out to make this such a great day, and to the sun for shining on us all.

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Hundreds come out for Mayday Demonstration

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Birmingham today to celebrate the trade union movement and demonstrate against the cuts.

Mayday is the traditional workers holiday and every year Birmingham Trades Union Council (BTUC) organise a celebration.  For the last 10 years, this has taken place inside, but this year working with Birmingham Against the Cuts, BTUC decided that it was time to get back onto the streets because of the savage cuts that are being implemented by the ConDem coalitions both nationally and locally.

Fortnum 145 solidarity bloc

The march gathered at Birmingham Cathedral, with banners on display from the Trades Council, Birmingham Against the Cuts, CROSSBrum, Save the Blood Service, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance, Respect and others.  There was also a group of protestors dressed in white in solidarity with the 145 people arrested for peacefully protesting in Fortnum and Mason on March 26th.

The march left the cathedral and went around the city centre to regather in Chamberlain Square for stalls, speakers and music – and this time we had a soundsystem so everyone could hear what was said!

David Hughes, the President of BTUC, introduced the day saying

We are returning to an era of massive cuts, massive unemployment and massive social deprivation

and giving a short background to some of the cuts and the trade union movement in Birmingham.

The Clarion Singers followed this, with stirring performances of “power in the union” and “Are we going to take it lying down?”

UNISON on the march

Graeme Horn, UNISON council wokers branch secretary spoke about the labour movement in Birmingham and reflected on past struggles against Apartheid, deportion and other wider issues that the trade union movement in Birmingham had been involved in

Mayday is a day to celebrate the fights of trade unions for workers rights and to express solidarity with workers struggles around the world

before moving on to the upcoming struggle that UNISON will be waging against the council, who are seeking to make changes to terms and conditions that will see already low paid workers, such as home carers, losing as much as 1/3rd of their pay.  UNISON will be balloting through May for strike action, which if the ballot is succesful we are told will be planned to co-ordinate with other unions for a huge strike on the 30th June – we will keep you up to date on any developments there.

PCS are one of the other unions balloting for strike action on June 30th – and indeed their workers in the EHRC will be on strike on the 4th and 11th May.  Sian Ruddick was there to talk about the attacks on the civil service:

We are facing attacks on our jobs, pay, pensions and services … it was the fault of the greedy bankers but we are paying for it … the sick, disabled and poorly paid”

She was followed by Albert Bore, the leader of the Labour party group in Birmingham City Council, who attacked the cuts being made by the ConDem coalition, saying that the loss of thousands of full time jobs from the council would be a disaster.  He said the coalition were treating the people of Birmingham very badly and that the loss of 2 judicial reviews showed this.  Thanking everyone for coming out he said:

We need more demonstrations like this to stop the Lib Dems and Tories

Disabled People Against Cuts on the Mayday march

Eleanor from Disabled People Against the Cuts also talked about the judicial reviews, which mean that 11,000 adults in Birmingham should not have vital care withdrawn from them, and informed us that another case is forthcoming to do with housing benefit.  She argued passionately that everyone needs to stand and fight together and that all workers needed to help defend disabled people from cuts which are affecting disabled people severely:

At a local level disabled people are already losing funding for care and support and together with the closure of day centres many are becoming isolated in their own homes. Social care is not free for the majority of disabled people either

With the recent attacks on disabled claimants in the press, she went on to explain what DPAC and other groups are doing – there will be a national week of action against benefit cuts and against ATOS from the 9th may (with two events in Birmingham on the 12th and 13th).

Of those tested by ATOS and found fit for work 70% who have representation and 40 % without any representation have the decision overturned on appeal, although it can take up to 12 months to reach a tribunal hearing because there are so many cases wrongly assessed.

So when you hear the papers saying how many disabled people are found fit work work, remember that the vast majority of them are in fact found to be unable to work.

NHS workers carry their banner

Vez Kirkpatrick, a health care assistant and UNISON member spoke about the NHS, saying that the budget is increasing very slightly, but not in line with the rising costs of drugs and the additional costs produced by a population that is living for longer.  She talked about how the government released news on Friday, no doubt designed to coincide with the royal wedding, that the NHS will have to find an additional 50% in efficiency savings, and how this actually means the loss of 50,000 jobs.

There will be 1,600 job cuts – 20% of staff – at the Heart of England trust, and 17% of jobs will be lost at University Hospital Birmingham – causing delays and cancellations in routine procedures, which can include things vital to quality of life such as hip replacements.

In summing up, Vez said that people need to work against the health bill currently passing through parliament and that Save the NHS West Midlands – a regional campaign group – has been set up and will launch shortly.

This bill is opposed by anyone who knows anything about health – the BMA, Doctors,  Nurses, other unions in the health service, as well as user groups.  Even the Lib Dems oppose the health bill

And warned that

If we make these reforms then the NHS will no longer be available to everyone in the way it is now

Mary Pearson from the Troops Out Movement

Speakers from the Troops Out Movement, Stop the War Coalition and Unite Against Fascism spoke about issues which the trade union movement has been involved in, with Stuart Richardson from Stop the War pointing out the extreme costs of war – each cruise missile costs £700,000 – and how even though there’s no money for services for vulnerable people, there is always money for a war somewhere.

The final two speakers were Charlie Friel, who spoke about the Connexions Strike coming up next week, and Doug Morgan from NUT who spoke about their forthcoming ballot for industrial action, which we hope will result in a strike on June 30th, co-ordinated nationally with ATL, PCS and Unite (health) and locally with Unison (council branch).

All in all a good day.  With thanks to Pete Jackson from Right to Work for getting these pictures up quickly, more photos to come I’m sure, keep an eye on our facebook page, and I’ll also add links to this post, and probably more photos – or I might just make a new post on Monday or Tuesday just with photos from the event.

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PCS members at EHRC Birmingham to strike

Workers at Equality and Human Rights Commission offices across the country will walk out for an hour from 11am to 12 noon on Wednesday 4 May and again on Wednesday 11 May.

They are protesting over restructuring, job losses and a 55% budget cut that will set back 30 years of work promoting and improving equality.

In Birmingham there will be a picket at the back of Lancaster House, 67 Newhall Street, Birmingham, B3 1NA;

Around the country, other offices will walk out at the Arndale Centre, Corporation Street, Manchester, M4 3AQ; at the back of 155-171 Tooley street, London, SE1 2JP;  at 3 Callaghan Square, Cardiff, CF10 5BT; at the Optima building, 58 Robertson street. Glasgow. G2 8DU

Messages of support should be sent to savetheehrc@gmail.com

Connexions workers will also be striking on the 4th, so anyone free that day can get along to both pickets to show their solidarity, and also join us tomorrow for the Save our Services Mayday demonstration.

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