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2023-04-29 at 16:08 #402086Nat QuinnKeymaster
Sat 29 Apr 2023:
More than 130,000 civil servants across the UK walked out on Friday over an ongoing dispute over pay, pensions, redundancy terms, and job security.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members’ all-out strike affected 132 departments and public bodies ranging from the British Museum to the Cabinet Office. The British Museum said it would restrict entry to members and pre-booked visitors, PA news agency reported.
It’s the union’s third national strike in three months, along with a series of smaller-scale strikes.
PSU members at passport offices are in the middle of a five-week strike that will end on May 6. Driving examiners are also taking rolling regional actions.
The union is also balloting members on extending the mandate to strike for another six months beyond May 6 and announced an 18-day strike by 432 workers at His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
PCS is demanding a 10 percent pay rise for civil servants to catch up with inflation instead of the 2 percent increase offered by the government. But Downing Street previously said it wouldn’t hand out ” double-digit pay rises” which would “embed inflation going forward”.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, on Thursday, accused ministers of waging “an ideological war” on civil servants.
The day before launching the strike, Serwotka said in a statement, “When you look at how badly ministers treat their own staff, it’s impossible not to think this is an ideological war on civil servants.
“The evidence stacks up—ministers bullying their staff, giving our members the worst pay rise in the country, refusing to give them a back-dated pay claim or lump sum, like they’ve given everyone else, failing even to negotiate with us—so how else do you explain it?”
He accused ministers of launching “incessant attacks” on civil servants as “a point of principle”, and he said they should pay “their own staff a fair wage”.
PCS President Fran Heathcote said the union has not been able to enter negotiations with the government.
“What would be a really good starting point is if the government got into talks with us. We haven’t had one single negotiation,” she told Times Radio on Friday, arguing that it’s evidence civil servants “aren’t valued by this government,” Heathcote added.
She also said officials have been “sort of rubbished … at every opportunity, from Jacob Rees-Mogg leaving Post-it notes on desks … to some of the actions around Priti Patel, Suella Braverman, and Dominic Raab.”
The pay dispute comes amid ongoing tensions between elected officials and civil servants in recent years, with a series of bullying claims.
In April last year amid a government drive to push people back in offices following the COVID-19 pandemic, Rees-Mogg, then government efficiency minister at the Cabinet Office, was accused by the FDA union chief of acting in a “crass, condescending” way after media outlets reported that he had left printed notes on the empty desks of civil servants who were working from home, which read, “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon. With every good wish.”
In 2020, an inquiry into bullying claims against Patel, then-Home Secretary, found the minister’s approach could sometimes be described as bullying while noting she was—”justifiably in many instances”—frustrated by senior officials’ “lack of responsiveness” to her directions. Sir Alex Allan, who led the inquiry, resigned as then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ethics advisor after Johnson decided to keep Patel in office despite the findings.
Last month, an email sent in the name of current home secretary Braverman to Conservative Party supporters said “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants, and the Labour Party” blocked the government’s effort to stop illegal immigration by small boats using existing laws. Braverman told ITV she didn’t write the email.
Raab was forced to resign a week ago as justice secretary after an inquiry found he had acted in an “intimidating” manner in interactions with officials.
But the former minister in an interview with the BBC claimed that “a very small minority of very activist civil servants with a passive aggressive culture of the civil service” had been targeting him and attempting to “block government” because they “don’t like some of the reforms” in Brexit, parole, or human rights.
Downing Street didn’t respond to The Epoch Times response for comment. It’s unclear if or how much the government press offices are affected by the strike.
Friday’s action follows a strike on Thursday by teachers in England in a pay dispute, and announcements by the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT) and the drivers’ union Aslef of strikes in their pay dispute with train operators.
Aslef members will walk out on May 12, May 31, and June 3, the day of the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
The RMT announced a strike on May 13, the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final in Liverpool.
School leaders’ union NAHT announced it will formally ballot its members in England on industrial action over pay, funding, workload, and wellbeing.
It comes after 90 percent NAHT members rejected the government’s recent pay offer, calling it “inadequate and unaffordable”.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing have also rejected the government’s pay offer recently. It had planned a 48-hour strike this weekend, but the High Court agreed with the government that the union’s six-month mandate will run out before the last planned strike date.
RCN members will strike from Sunday evening to Monday evening but not on May 2 as previously planned.
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