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Tens of thousands of PCS members take part in 24-hour pay strike

Tens of thousands of Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members took to the streets yesterday in a dispute over pay. 

The union said its members took the 24-hour strike action because since 2010, taking into account pay cuts and monthly pension contribution increases, many civil servants have suffered a 20% cut in their real-terms income. 

Mark Serwotka, general secretary at PCS, said civil servants had suffered pay cuts, job losses and changes to pensions in a “triple whammy”.

He highlighted the fact that members have suffered six years of pay restraint, seen pay effectively cut by 20%, and said the cost of living crisis is the key to why members went out on strike. The union forecast that around 200,000 members were taking part in the walkout. 

However, cabinet office minister Francis Maude claimed these figures were “pure fiction”. 

He said: “Our official returns show that 71,210 – or less than a third of PCS’s inflated membership claims – took part in the action. This is the lowest level of support ever recorded for a national PCS strike. 

“Every Jobcentre opened, and with robust contingency arrangements in place, most public services operated as normal. We have always said it cannot be right that the lives of hardworking people are threatened with disruption by a union leadership who insist on strike action while relying on a weak and outdated mandate.” 

The PCS stated, though, that no official business took place at the Welsh Assembly, galleries at Tate Liverpool were closed, the UK Border Force custody suite in Dover was closed and the contact centre at DVLA Swansea had been hit very hard – with only four staff out of 72 going in. It added that these actions, and more besides, showed the level of support for the action. 

Serwotka said: “Our action this week demands an end to these cuts that are slashing the public servants' living standards at the same time as millionaires are handed tax cuts and tens of billions of pounds is stolen from our public finances every year through tax evasion.” 

Last week, Unison, Unite and GMB suspended strike action for local government and school support workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which was due to take place on 14 October. The three unions made the decision collectively so they could consult their members on new pay proposals put forward by the Local Government Association. 

(Image: c. PCS Union)

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