Exclusive interview: Mark Serwotka says civil servants could strike until Christmas

'The government must be asking themselves, when will this stop?'

Civil servants could continue their sustained industrial action until Christmas, Mark Serwotka general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union announced as ministers continue their ‘ideological’ attack on the civil service.

Speaking to journalists on the first day of the PCS annual conference, Serwotka said the union will be seeking to continue their action until the end of the year as well as increasing union coordination going forward.

The union are asking the conference to endorse a £5 a month mandatory extra subscription paid by their members, which will mean they can keep their sustained action going until Christmas.

Key at the conference will be talks on the national dispute over civil servants pay and conditions. Serworka said the debate will not be on whether to carry on, but on what level of action is now appropriate going forward.

They will be seeking authorities from delegates to agree further all out strikes and on talking to other unions in the public sector, including other civil servants’ unions, about coordinating strikes.

Serwotka said civil service unions had been going ‘at different paces’, but now the unions were in the same place and that there was ‘no difference between any union in how badly they’re being treated’.

“If there’s a chance of coordinated action with other civil service unions going forward I would be very interested,” Serwotka said.

Mark Serwotka also condemned the government’s demonization of the civil service, which he said could have the ‘chilling effect’ of pushing for further outsourcing and privatisation of the public sector which he viewed as an underlying aim of the Tory government.

Denouncing an ideological view taken by the current Tory government to demonise civil servants, Serwotka said the civil service was being used to ‘set an example’ in pay disputes.

He added that formal pay negotiations had so far been none existent and that anger in the civil service was now ‘palpable’.

“We don’t pretend as a union that we’re in a position where we can get a knockout victory, our strategy is recognising our members do different kinds of work and it’s a long-term building of pressure, that’s the key and they’ve never had pressure building like this before.

 “I think the government must be asking to themselves when will this stop?”

He also said the union was ‘extraordinarily confident’ they will get over the current ballot threshold of DWP workers which will add another 40,000 members in for national strike action as soon as possible.

Serworka also announced his support for Fran Heathcote as his successor, expressing that he greatly hoped the next PCS general secretary is a woman, as ‘we’ve never done that historically’.

He recently annouced his retirement after 23 years in the role.

The PCS conference is taking place this week in Brighton.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

(Photo credit: PCS / Andy Aitchison)

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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