PCS delegates expected to call for new round of coordinated public sector strikes during TUC cnference, which opens this afternoon


Joint union strikes over cuts to pay and pensions need to be held as soon as possible after national anti-cuts demonstrations on 20 October, according to PCS delegates gathering for the TUC annual congress, which begins this afternoon.

The union’s theme for the congress, which opens in Brighton today, is ‘Say no to austerity’.

Following a meeting of the union’s National Executive last week, PCS delegates will argue that as well as protests and marches, campaigning against government policies must involve further co-ordinated industrial action.

The main teaching unions in England and Wales, NASUWT and NUT are expected to released details tomorrow (10 September) of industrial action, which is likely to include an overtime ban, to begin later this month.

The outgoing TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber is due to spell out key issues facing delegates at a news conference in Brighton later today.

In a survey of PCS members ahead of the congress, it was found civil servants have seen their income fall by an average of £100 a month, with increased pension contributions (49%) and the rising cost of living (31%) being the two most common reasons given.

In the survey almost nine in 10 said the chancellor George Osborne’s most recent budget had made them worse off; 88% had cut down on spending, with the biggest reductions being on buying food and clothing; and 92% said they had experienced increased stress over the last six months as a result of economic issues or employment.

Respondents said they were borrowing an average of almost £300 a month, and 77% said their money would run out by week three of the month were it not for borrowing.

These findings mirror figures being revealed in a new online ‘austerity calculator’ that works out how much civil servants stand to lose in the coming years.

The calculator, devised by the union and hosted on its website, takes account of the government’s pay freeze and 1% pay cap policy, changes to public sector pensions that the government is trying to impose, and increases in the cost of living.

As well as calling for co-ordinated strikes, debates the union’s congress delegates will lead or support include those about the welfare state, the blockade on Gaza, sustainable energy, the disproportionate effect of the government’s cuts on women, and public ownership of the banks.

The TUC is organising national demonstrations for 20 October in London, Glasgow and Belfast, as a follow-up to the March for the Alternative on 26 March, where more than half a million people marched through central London to a rally in Hyde Park.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Not only is this government’s brutal obsession with austerity not working, it is making our economic situation worse. Pay, pensions and tens of thousands of jobs are being cut, people’s living standards are being driven down, support for the sick and disabled is being hacked away, and the NHS and our welfare state are being torn apart.

“The demonstrations on 20 October will send an important message to government ministers that we do not want their cuts and that there is an alternative. As well as protesting on the streets, we believe we will need to follow this up as soon as possible with further co-ordinated strikes, bringing unions together across the public and private sectors.”

UnionNews will be reporting from Brighton every day of the conference.

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