- Friday, 19 October 2012
- Written by Darrall Cozens (UCU, Coventry TUC and Coventry NWCLP)
This week in Coventry more than 200 PCS members and others took Francis Maude at his word and walked out for 15 minutes as he was visiting the HMRC tax office in Sherbourne House where they worked. At 12.45 they streamed out of the building, held a short impromptu meeting, walked around the block and went back to work. All in 15 minutes!
This time the protest was over plans leaked in a Cabinet Office letter on October 11th that civil servants would be made to work longer, have flexible working taken away, and have holiday time cut as well as suffering attacks on sick pay schemes. Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, said, ”Amid an imposed pay freeze, cuts to pensions and redundancy terms, the Cabinet Office now wants to undermine some very basic working conditions that any decent employer should offer.” (Guardian, October 11th)
Today in Coventry the anger of civil servants was directed at Maude, and quite rightly so. He is leading the charge on behalf of the Coalition to attack the wages, terms and conditions of civil service workers with many of them already on very low pay. On the other hand Francis Maude seems to be doing very well.
In 2006 he took out a mortgage on a flat for £345,000. The Daily Telegraph revealed that he had then claimed £35,000 in expenses over 2 years to cover the interest payments on the flat that was only a few hundred yards from his house! In 2011 it was revealed that his Cabinet Office salary was £98,740. When he retires in 2018 he will have four pensions: the state pension, his MP’s and Minister’s pensions that will come to more than £40,000 per year, and then his private pension from his time as Managing Director at Stanley Morgan. And this is the man telling civil servants that they have to suffer cuts in wages and pensions to help pay for the deficit.
In addition his personal net worth is over £3m. He therefore fits in well in a cabinet which has 22 millionaires. One week before announcing further attacks on civil servants Maude announced that he was cracking down on trade union activity in the Civil Service. PCS members under attack elect reps to defend their interests and now those reps are to be penalised. A default position will be introduced which means that paid time off to attend trade union conferences will not be allowed. Facility time will also be cut and any reps spending all their time on TU work will be excluded from promotion. So workers are attacked and are then penalised for defending themselves.
But what else can you expect from a government that is a faithful and loyal political representative of a capitalist system that is in crisis, a government that sees the only way to defend the system is by attacking working class living standards that have been built up over generations of struggle? We did not cause the crisis, yet we are being made to pay for it.
This Saturday, October 20th, hundreds of thousands of trade unionists will heed the call of the TUC to march in London against austerity and for jobs and growth. Amongst them will be coach loads from Coventry, from PCS, Unison, Unite, NUT, UCU and Coventry TUC. We will march against government policies, yet we should also be marching for something. The basis, the first step, of that alternative was the policy agreed at the TUC conference in early September in Motion 27, which stated “Congress believes that the economic chaos and devastation sparked by the major banks and financial institutions should be ended through full public ownership of the sector and the creation of a publicly owned banking service, democratically and accountably managed”
This, the nationalisation of the banks and finance houses under democratic control, is now the policy of the TUC. State control of finance could lay the cornerstone of an edifice that could challenge the widely accepted belief that are all in this together and that the cuts are necessary. The only way to stop the cuts is to get rid of capitalism and replace it with a society where the wealth that we create is owned and controlled by us, that is a socialist society.
We can then build schools and hospitals and homes. We can raise wages and pensions. We can create jobs and offer a massive expansion of education and training. We can do all of this when we control finance. We cannot plan what we do not control and we cannot control what we do not own.As a first step in that direction the TUC policy is worth fighting for this Saturday, October 20th.The time has come for Labour and the trade unions to fight this Coalition and its cuts with socialist policies and to build for a one-day general strike.