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At the rally for the national TUC lobby of Parliament on public-sector pay on 9 June, the loudest applause was given to those general secretaries who called on unions to coordinate industrial action on pay across the public sector to increase our pressure on the New Labour government.
As a PCS trade unionist in the Department for Work and Pensions, where our members face an imposed nil per cent pay 'rise' next month, it is obvious that we need to fight industrially and preferably alongside other public-sector workers. But it also raises the clear need for a political voice - a party which will fight alongside public-sector workers rather than attacking us.
We have faced concerted attacks from this Labour government over the past years which have been as bad and in many cases worse than the previous Tory government attacks.
Whilst the current MPs indulge themselves with expenses to lavishly furnish second homes our members worry whether we can pay our mortgage or rent, all the fuel bills that are rocketing now and whether we will have enough money at the end of the month to pay just for basics like food. Now is the time for us to build a real political alternative.
That is why I am coming to the CNWP conference and I am encouraging my fellow trade union members to come too.
Back in 1997 many PCS members welcomed the election of a 'New Labour' government, believing it offered a radical alternative to the Tories. The illusion was quickly shattered, however, when Blair and Brown launched their attacks on public servants' jobs, pensions, pay and working conditions.
Our members no longer harbour any illusions, as we saw in the recent local elections. They are able to see that it is now nothing more than a party of big business.
We are in a situation where the three main political parties are indistinguishable from one another. At the last general election we saw the amazing spectacle of MPs from Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems engaged in a bidding war over how many civil service jobs they could axe.
So, if none of the main parties represent public-sector workers and workers in general, what are our options? Sadly, due to the virtual political vacuum that currently exists in Britain, the British National Party (BNP) has gained a certain level of support among traditional Labour voters on the basis of populist slogans that hide their true fascist and racist agenda.
In my opinion this makes it even more important for the trade union movement to talk about the question of working class representation and the need to link with community groups and socialists to build a new, broad-based party free of big business and capable of representing working people and driving the BNP back into the sewers from which they came.
PCS does a great job of defending our members' interests but I believe in the long term, the issues facing PCS members require political change.
Campaign for a New Workers Party (29)
Article dated 11 June 2008
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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